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The Cost Of Switching From Gas To Electric

December 20, 2015

By Paul Homewood 


Plymouth Plumbing - Plymouth PlumbersPlymouth Plumbing and Heating



Further to recent posts on the suggestion that domestic gas use would need to be phased out in order to meet decarbonisation targets, there is one further issue. As Catweazle pointed out, electricity is much more expensive than gas in the UK.


According to DECC, the price of electricity for domestic users averages 13.6 pence/KWh, compared with just 4.2 pence for gas. (These exclude standing charges). Average gas consumption is said to be 15000 KWh per household, giving an average annual gas bill of £630.

If there was a like for like switch from gas to electric, annual bills would rise by £1410. Put another way, gas consumption by domestic customers amounted to 342 TWh in 2013. Switching this to electric would, in theory, cost £32 bn.

This does assume like for like technology – gas to electric cookers or fires, for instance. It may be that heat pumps, for instance, would use less electrical energy than a gas boiler would, for a given amount of heat.

Nevertheless, it is clear that we are all in for substantially higher energy bills in a non-gas future, particularly since electricity prices are forecast to go much higher as subsidies for renewables increase even further.




  1. Joe Public permalink
    December 20, 2015 4:20 pm

    Info on heat-pumps from here:

    [Ground-source heat pumps are very much more expensive, AND, require the home to have sufficient …… ground.]

    Note their comment “What fuel will you be replacing? The system will pay for itself much more quickly if it’s replacing an electricity or coal heating system. Heat pumps may not be the best option for homes using mains gas.” Even the EST can’t make an economic argument for replacing a mains-gas boiler system with a GSHP.

  2. December 20, 2015 4:32 pm

    What would be the total cost of replacing all the hobs, ovens, fires and boilers? Today we heard from INEOS that large-scale fracking will come on stream in about a decade, so what will we do with all this gas? I predict it is not going to happen. The climate change act will be quietly postponed.

  3. S Allnutt permalink
    December 20, 2015 5:00 pm

    Since electricity is a secondary source of energy which must be generated from another energy form it will always be less efficient than a primary source. Burning gas to produce electricity which is then used to produce heat is thermodynamically and economically crazy.

    • J Martin permalink
      December 20, 2015 6:19 pm

      Though heat pumps might modify that equation somewhat.

  4. J Martin permalink
    December 20, 2015 6:18 pm

    I have a friend whose central heating is run via a coal back bnoiler. She doesn’t want a tank of gas or oil so I suggested she look into an air source heat pumps. One difficult to cost consideration is having to go outside in icey winters to get coal several times a day as one ages.

    • Joe Public permalink
      December 20, 2015 7:48 pm

      “….. (a friend) whose central heating is run via a coal back boiler…….
      One difficult to cost consideration is having to go outside in icy winters to get coal several times a day as one ages.”

      Offset perhaps by the fact that her coal-fire (in front of the boiler), is immune to electricity power cuts!!

      • J Martin permalink
        December 20, 2015 8:10 pm

        Yes she is going to definitely keep the fire, but is looking for an alternative to supply heat to the rest of the house. As there is no gas and she refuses to entertain the idea of a storage tank either oil or gas then her only remaining option is an air source heat pump, government subsidies permitting.

        Myself, I’d look at a gas storage tank to at least compare.

  5. December 20, 2015 8:29 pm

    Apart from the economics of conversion, (at present big grants essential for heat pumps to be economic), they respond very slowly to changes in house temperature and need a weather forecast to be built into them to give comfort conditions when the temperatures change.

    Thus, people tend to keep the house hotter than is needed for comfort and use them 24/7 to avoid cold morning temperatures, which is also unhealthy and wastes energy. They are fine for background heat but you need a booster to cover the dynamics.

  6. ron permalink
    December 21, 2015 11:33 am

    From the comments here on this blog it would appear that air heat pumps are frequently considered as an alternative for householders in the U.K. Maybe I’m out of the loop but I think they are seldom mentioned here in North America.

    I had to go to youtube to get a clear(er) picture of how an air heat pump works. Seemed like a pretty complicated piece of machinery to consider installing in every home. Lots of moving parts, interconnected systems, check valves, controls. All of which are critical to the operation of the system. Periodic defrost cycles, very slow response time, low temperature delivery system which requires constant operation. Strategic rather than tactical setting of desired temperature levels. (Hmm, it is going to get cold outside in a few hours. I better raise the temperature now.)

    But the strange thing for me is that it requires an external power source. Stranger still is that it seems like a big step backward for human comfort in an affluent society. However, the strangest thing is that it seems very expensive in comparison to central forced air or individually controlled electric radiators in every room.

    With the electric heater system you are vulnerable to power failures but as described in the video, heat pumps are just as vulnerable. The difference is that when power is restored the electric radiators start blasting heat out immediately. Stand by the radiator and you get the benefit within a couple of minutes no matter how cold it is.

    I guess I’m spoiled here in North America but I just don’t understand why a homeowner in populated areas would install and rely on such systems for their primary heat source.

    I worked for a developer whose design for a large residential tower was hailed as being green, green, green because it was built with a ground loop heat pump system. I was amazed to discover, after some time, that the tremendous amount of equipment for the heat pump only pre-warmed the hot water supply as the operation was insufficient to raise it to the level of acceptably hot water. Heat for the building was entirely electric radiators and gas fire places in every unit. What happens twenty years from now when critical parts of an integrated system start failing and the Chinese company that makes them is out of business is not something that affects me as I don’t own a unit there and no longer work for the company.

    Like I say, heat pumps are not much in play for residential here so maybe I misunderstand what is involved. If so, I apologize.

  7. December 21, 2015 1:12 pm

    Heat pumps have been somewhat successful in the southern states. But when you have a lot of real cold, they do not work very well and must have a conventional back-up. In the ’80’s, I remember a Christmas my parents and I spent with my brother and family in TN just outside Oak Ridge. There was an unusual cold spell for that area and an ice storm. Mary put the turkey in the oven right after breakfast, vowing that Christmas dinner would be earlier than usual. About 15 minutes later, the power went off and stayed off until mid-afternoon. Lunch was soup fixed on the screen porch on the 2-burner Coleman camp stove. We spent time in the family room with the large wood-burning fireplace that had heat vents either side of the mantel. They had heat pumps, but “weren’t no one” with power to run anything for a large portion of the day. One answer is to subject the wizards of green smart to a dose of the reality they wish to impose upon us, but always exempt them selves.

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