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Electricity costs too high to make heat pumps worthwhile, MPs warn

December 22, 2020

By Paul Homewood


h/t Mr GrimNasty

Well some of us have been pointing this out for a while!



Electricity is too expensive to make heat pumps worthwhile, MPs have warned, as they urged the government to rethink environmental costs passed onto customers.

The high cost of electricity compared to gas risk putting people off ditching their gas boiler for the cleaner alternative, which runs on electricity, the Environmental Audit Committee said.

In a letter to Energy Minister Kwasi Kwarteng, Philip Dunne, chairman of the Environmental Audit Committee, said high electricity bills are a "significant barrier to heat pump adoption".

Electricity is around four times more expensive than gas because of costs passed onto the consumer from environmental programmes and social measures such as the Warm Homes Discount, which gives some households cheaper energy bills. These extra costs are not added to gas bills.

Figures from Ofgem show that environmental and social costs make up 23 per cent of the average electricity bill and just two per cent of the average gas bill.

Last month the committee heard calls from some witnesses to add carbon taxes to gas in order to incentivise switching.

MCS, which certifies installers of renewable energy, said the government should price out gas and oil from the market by adding a carbon tax to fossil fuels used for heating.

Emma Pinchbeck, the chief executive of trade association Energy UK, said that "all the price signals in the market point to a gas boiler as being the most sensible technology to install."

"One of the reasons that heat pumps are not coming out and being able to compete with gas, despite being cheaper to operate, is essentially to do with Government decisions around policy, taxation and where costs fall in the economy," she said.


In fact Emma Pinchbeck, who used to run the lobbyist Renewable UK, is being extremely dishonest when she says:

One of the reasons that heat pumps are not coming out and being able to compete with gas, despite being cheaper to operate, is essentially to do with Government decisions around policy, taxation and where costs fall in the economy

The fact that electricity costs five times as much as gas has nothing to do with “taxation”. Nor does the Warm Homes Discount make much difference, as this only amounts to £400 million a year:




Strangely Emma does not mention the obscene costs of subsidising renewable energy, which get added on to electricity bills to the tune of £12bn a year.

But the major reason why electricity is so much more expensive is that it is fundamentally an inefficient way of providing energy.

It makes far more sense after all to burn natural gas in your home for heating, than burn it in a gas power station to generate power, which then has to be distributed through a transmission network, involving more cost and energy loss.

And, as we know, gas power generation is still the cheapest source of electricity.

She also makes the ridiculous claim that heat pumps are cheaper to operate. The whole reason why nobody wants them is that they are far more expensive to operate, regardless of renewable subsidies.

That is why the eco-loons now want to add a carbon tax to natural gas.

Sadly the dopey Olivia Rudgard, the Environmental Correspondent who wrote this claptrap, does not appear to understand any of this.

  1. Joe Public permalink
    December 22, 2020 12:49 pm

    “Electricity is too expensive to make heat pumps worthwhile, MPs have warned …”

    So make electricity less expensive!

    • December 22, 2020 1:13 pm

      Wind Farms were far too expensive but that did not stop the Government from squandering billions on them. But of course many of the receivers of that largesse were relatives or friends. A good example of that was Cameron’s father in law (Samanthas’s Daddy) who was earning £1,000.00 a day in recents years for his few turbines. Much of the money came from ordinary householders whose electricity bills were increased significantly and the electricity companies where forced to collect on behalf of the government.

    • bobn permalink
      December 22, 2020 4:12 pm

      Yes Joe, electricity should be made cheaper by getting rid of the ECO burden of subsidies etc. However thats not what they will do. They are going to increase the cost of Gas with taxes to make it match electric!! Especially now they’ve placed a career eco nutter bureaucrat in charge of Ofgen. Watch this space.

    • Adamsson permalink
      December 23, 2020 7:32 am

      Don’t be ridiculous
      Ban the alternatives and electricity even more expensive and ration the supply

    • Hivemind permalink
      December 23, 2020 8:22 am

      “So make electricity less expensive”

      That’s beyond the ability of the UK government to comprehend. Then again, most of the western world suffers from the same delusions.

  2. December 22, 2020 1:17 pm

    The other compelling reason to retain natural gas as an energy source is that the infrastructure is already in place, both locally and internationally, and there are huge reserves of gas beneath Russia and its neighbouring countries. It really would be criminal to turn our back on those resources.

    • Chris permalink
      December 22, 2020 5:06 pm

      I work for an IOC here in Houston. There are many sources of LNG, including the US, that could supply the world with gas well past 2100. The answer is to allow gas to provide the heat in UK homes until such time that supply/demand make electricity competitive. Presumably we will have improved the technology of generation and distribution to make this credible by then.

      • chriskshaw permalink
        December 22, 2020 5:08 pm

        Noticed my email was typo’d in as hmail rather than gmail

    • December 22, 2020 5:34 pm

      It would also be “criminal” to hamstring an economy and impoverish a population on the basis of an unsubstantiated claim about a gas (CO2) but that is exactly what is happening. This is really the crime of not the century but of all history.

      • CheshireRed permalink
        December 22, 2020 11:45 pm

        The world is being gaslighted. Why should governments be immune from prosecution when they lie so freely?

  3. December 22, 2020 1:21 pm

    Which explains why Cameron did it, and why the subsidy should be dumped. But not on the general population. My pension does not run to me paying for the likes if Cameron or the other bent politicians

  4. Douglas Brodie permalink
    December 22, 2020 1:28 pm

    Ben Pile takes Emma Pinchbeck to task in this Twitter thread:

  5. William Birch permalink
    December 22, 2020 1:28 pm

    A Heat pump is basically a domestic fridge “in reverse”. It takes energy to move heat from a cooler to source to a warmer destination.However in the case of a heat pump to work efficiently the heat source needs to be a a constant temperature. Problem is the more heat is transferred, the lower the source temperature becomes, until the amount of electricity needed to bridge the ever increasing temperature gradient, becomes totally inefficient. A large block of Flats near my home drilled two boreholes into the old workings in the coal seams below. Pumping up mine water from one borehole, punting the water through the heat exchanger and returning it through the second borehole. At first all went well until they realised the water coming up from the old workings was getting cooler and cooler and cooler. In the end they had to turn off the system.

    • GeoffB permalink
      December 22, 2020 1:42 pm

      From 2014
      A flagship green energy plan to heat Newcastle’s Science Central site and parts of the city has failed – because scientists can’t retrieve enough hot water.

      Academics had planned to use the 2km deep Newcastle borehole, which is the first ever built in a UK city centre, to heat buildings at the landmark development.

      • December 22, 2020 6:04 pm

        GeoffB. The clue to the farce is in the wording “ACADEMICS had planned to use the 2km deep Newcastle borehole”.

        Academics do theory not practice. Architects dream on paper and engineers make it work and certainly stop it falling down. Letting Academics lose with piles of cash is throwing money down the toilet as has been shown countless times as they all jump on to the wilfully blindly navigated good ship Climate Cashcow. People have “ideas” ( thought showers), madcap idea barely off the drawing board and they skip the development and go straight to implementation. Result? Predictable disaster.

        This reminds me from a few years ago when “A scientist” in Herriot Watt ( Once only famed for a certificate in Brewing) or another of the plethora of institutions of higher public funding absorption got about £3 million funding to develop a wave energy machine based on not very much as I remember. The mad academic was interviewed arms waving egged on by the interviewer to pontificate about the promise of unlimited energy while saving the planet blablabla.

        I tool one look at the result of that £3 million spend and thought, “I wonder what will happen when the first bad weather comes?” My question was answered quite shortly after when it was again a news item but for all the wrong reasons. It was now a pile of twisted junk on the sea shore. No questions asked of the academic as to why its design was no good and unable to survive in real world conditions and why he had not tested a scale model first before committing all that public money to chance? No far from it, the interviewer was bubbling over with effusive commiserations saying “at least you tried” and even praised the academic for attempting to do something great to save the planet!

        Appearing to “try” to save the Planet is now virtue personified. After large salaries and expenses have been drawn from tax payer sourced funds from as long as possible. As long as it is all done in the name of “Green” or “Saving the Planet” it is no questions asked. At worst only a minimal amount of questions are asked, A bit like the “impartial ” medias interviewing Sleepy Joe Biden.

    • Phoenix44 permalink
      December 22, 2020 2:35 pm

      If we did this on a planet-wide scale would we not be transporting heat from the planet to outer space much quicker than “natural” transfer by making it far easier and quicker?

    • Robert Christopher permalink
      December 22, 2020 5:48 pm

      A heat pump works well when the heat is extracted from a flowing river. As Heraclitus said, “You cannot step into the same river twice …”.

      My flatmate (Hi Roger!) did this in his 2nd year Physics project, in 1974, using a stream on university grounds. 🙂

      It would work really well where there is ‘heat pollution’ down stream of a heat source, like a power station.

      • December 23, 2020 8:39 am


        the name is misleading, it does not pump heat from a source such as your river. The heat is the load to make the compressor work, the harder it works, the higher the temperature that is developed at the condenser and used to warm a house. This is why air source heat pumps are poor when it gets cold, the comprssor is not working so hard.
        The reality is you could use an air compressor and use it’s heat but what would you do with the compressed air?

    • Duker permalink
      December 22, 2020 9:14 pm

      “However in the case of a heat pump to work efficiently the heat source needs to be a a constant temperature. Problem is the more heat is transferred, the lower the source temperature becomes,..”
      None of this is true in the way you mean.
      The outside air is essentially infinite volume and cant be affected by the heat pump transfer. Outside temperatures can and do vary because of meteorological reasons and the size of the heat pump needed is based on the internal size of house and outside climate in your area.
      My heat pump after warming up the house in evening ( as outside temperature falls) operates at a steady state consumption of 200-450W. Which means its out putting around 1- 1.5kW. The maximum output is 5.5kW which I never need but means the warm up period of higher output doesnt last too long ( but still quicker than hot water radiators as my unit provides fan assisted air movement)

  6. StephenP permalink
    December 22, 2020 1:39 pm

    Added to the cost of electricity is the problem with air source heat pumps not working very well at temperatures below 7°C.

    • Tym fern permalink
      December 22, 2020 5:10 pm

      Yes, I believe that at lower temps you either have to put up with cooler water in the heating loop or turn on the electric booster heater, very expensive.

      • Nancy & John Hultquist permalink
        December 22, 2020 6:10 pm

        We have had an “air-sourced” heat pump for many years.
        As needed, it cools the air in summer and warms it in winter.
        At some point, as the temperature drops it automatically switches to resistance-heating. We have a wood stove for emergencies.

        Why is this possible?
        Large dams on the Columbia were built many years ago that provided power, flood control, and irrigation water. These dams were a national priority and provided the electricity for converting Bauxite into raw Aluminum. Aluminum was wanted for aircraft manufacturing – in a location remote from the coast.
        You may, or may not, know of similar issues with the location of British use of inland American places for manufacture of war material (munitions) at the time of WWII.
        [ ]

        Sorry, I digressed there.
        Anyway, the electricity for our house comes compliments of the War effort – we are not now paying for the construction.
        The house was built with ducts, insulation, and forced air heating and cooling. The original heater – 1981 – was a “resistance” type that we replaced with a modern (1990s) combination unit. There is a separate tank for heating water, but also electric.
        We can do this because of the inexpensive electric rates, namely:
        – – – – Residential and Farm Service Single phase
        – – – – normally 120/240.
        Facilities Charge … $22.50/month (supports our local provider)
        Charge………………….$ 0.0950/kWh (for the electrons delivered)

        Only a couple of other places in the USA have similarly low rates.

      • Ed Bo permalink
        December 22, 2020 9:30 pm

        John – The history of the Columbia River dams is very interesting and convoluted. Construction on the Grand Coulee Dam started in 1933, way before anyone was thinking about another war.

        Congress authorized a “low dam”, which would have had considerably less generating power. However, they started building a “high dam”, which presented a fait accompli to the authorities, so they of course did get the budget to finish the high dam.

        This design provided far more generating capacity than anyone would have known what to do with before the war. But the war brought huge demand for aluminum airframes, which quickly soaked up the “excess” generating capacity.

        So it was a case of “fortuitous fraud” that helped us win the war!

        BTW, when I lived in Seattle in the 1970s, it was the first time I had seen electrical resistance space heating. But with electricity at $0.02/kWh, I guess it made economic sense.

      • Nancy & John Hultquist permalink
        December 22, 2020 11:07 pm

        Ed Bo is correct.
        Thanks Ed.

  7. GeoffB permalink
    December 22, 2020 1:54 pm

    Newcastle council are running a scheme with EON to instal 250 homes with air heat pump, some delighted customer is reporting on how great his installation is, before his first winter, lets see what he thinks of it next spring.

    Apply now to find out if your home is suitable.
    Don’t miss out on:

    A free heat pump and installation worth on avg £7,000
    A seven-year manufacturer’s warranty
    New hot water tank and radiator upgrades for free
    Free cavity wall & loft insulation to improve the energy efficiency of your home
    Free post installation support; including your first annual heat pump service and breakdown cover for 1 year
    Free smart heating controls and a heat pump monitoring package.
    Free, independent energy and tariff advice.
    Logos of Eon, Newcastle City Council, BEIS, YHN and NEA

    • A C Osborn permalink
      December 22, 2020 2:23 pm

      How to waste a quarter of million of tax payers cash.

  8. Joe Public permalink
    December 22, 2020 1:57 pm

    A major reason natural gas is relatively inexpensive is that it can be stored interseasonally, in bulk, and at low cost. Something impossible for electricity.

    National Grid provides an interesting web page, marred only by its gas-teccie units of mcm/day on some charts.

    One mcm (million cubic metres is roughly 11GWh, and 1mcm/day is therefore is approx 11GWh/24 = 0.46GW

    As I type this, instantaneous Supply is approx 310mcm/day = 142.6GW, instantaneous Demand is 316 mcm/day = 145.4GW.

    Actual stock levels are approx 16,100GWh in conventional storage, plus 7,900GWh as LNG, plus 363mcm /3,993GWh as LinePack (*left*-hand scale on PCLP chart).

    Total gas actually in store today, therefore, ~27,993GWh.

    Britain has just 27GWh of pumped hydroelectricity storage.

    • Joe Public permalink
      December 22, 2020 2:00 pm

      For perspective, current electricity demand is 40GW, and gas is generating 22.276GW of that.

    • December 22, 2020 2:21 pm

      So even in this relatively mild weather the gas required is 145 GW, providing about 100GW of heating. To replace this with air heat pumps at CoP of say 1.5 at this temperature (6C and lower) would need an extra 60 GW in very rough terms. The real winter load is of course far bigger and the CoP lower. The imbalance between winter heat and winter power is truly massive. Fixed by magical heat pumps, insulation and hydrogen!!! What planet are these “scientists” on?

      • mikewaite permalink
        December 22, 2020 10:57 pm

        “What planet are these “scientists” on?”
        Ours unfortunately .

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      December 22, 2020 2:36 pm

      Most of the storage is downhole in wells. There can be large swings in gas production. You need about 3 days notice to pump more gas ashore from the North Sea. An LNG tanker takes just over a week to deliver to Grain or Milford Haven from Sabetta. You could probably outbid on a cargo destined for transshipment to Asia via Montoir for an even quicker topup of a TWh or so..

    • Hivemind permalink
      December 23, 2020 9:24 am

      Coal is also stored “interseasonally”, in great big heaps, and electricity only generated on demand.

  9. James Broadhurst permalink
    December 22, 2020 3:37 pm

    Not only too expensive but there isn’t enough of it. Throughout today renewable generation has been poor; out of 40.5GW demand only 5 comes from renewables. Wind 1.5GW. But coal 3GW and gas 23GW

    When you quote these figures, the renewable lobby just denies it or offers spurious claims for the future.

  10. It doesn't add up... permalink
    December 22, 2020 4:04 pm

    In the year to end September the UK used about 826TWh of gas. Looking at the National Grid Future Energy Scenarios they expect £50/tCO2e tax by 2030. At 180gCO2e/kWh for methane, that works out as another £7.4bn in energy taxes on the gas. Of course, it will make gas fired electricity even more expensive – which is what you will need when it is cold and the wind isn’t blowing. But of course, the tax wouldn’t just be on methane. In a more normal year, we use about 70 million tonnes of oil, generating 250 million tonnes of CO2. So that would be a further £12.5bn in carbon taxes. Almost another £700 per household altogether.

  11. ThinkingScientist permalink
    December 22, 2020 4:29 pm

    Sent this simple calculation to my MP.

    On my last bill my unit prices were:

    Gas 2.6 p / kWh
    Elec 13.3 p / kWh

    If I currently use 50/50 of each and am forced to switch to electricity only my energy bill will rise 70%. Its pretty simple.

    And of course gas is keeping the cost of electricity down. Gas+Coal is just over 40% of UK electricity generation per year. Using the above rates, without Gas+Coal to keep the price down, electricity prices would rise to 20.4 p / kWh.

    So currently using 2 kWh of energy 50/50 gas/elec would cost 15.9p
    Without gas+coal that would rise to an estimated 40.8p

    That’s a price increase of 2.6x or 260%.

    As I pointed out to my MP, that kind of deliberate policy is unlikely to make any political party popular with the voters. And even less so with Conservative voters.

    With any luck the Conservative Party will narrowly avoid committing political suicide and wake up before it manages to complete the job of economic suicide on the country.

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      December 22, 2020 7:06 pm

      It’s a pity that MP’s have to appeal to their voting base – their ability to gain popular votes – rather then their logical abilities to see that certain policies are just not viable. One wonders about fingers in pies and the benefits that some MPs get from working for their ‘sponsors’ rather than their constituents.
      BTW, TS, I don’t think Labour would be any different: there is a drive to weaken this country and removing affordable energy from the mix is a sure-fire wat to achieve that. Labour is well-signed up to that.

      • ThinkingScientist permalink
        December 22, 2020 8:23 pm

        The only hope is to persuade the Conservatives to drop these policies. They cannot sit well with the grass roots Conservative Associations, if they had their eyes opened a little I think the support could vanish – especially by focusing on costs. And it plays to the strengths of traditional Conservative values of fiscal responsibility.

        Labour would be much worse and impossible to convert, I think. Saving the planet from climate change fits straight into their psychological make-up. I don’t even think the “what about the poor” argument would work with Labour Party members (although it might work with the Unions).

      • December 22, 2020 9:50 pm

        I wrote to our new Blue Wall MP – she sounded a bit worried, but tried to convince me it would all be worth it because of all these new green jobs we were going to have!

    • Gerry, England permalink
      December 22, 2020 5:26 pm

      The trouble with using switching sites is that most of them don’t have all the available tariffs, especially at the lower end so the £50 offered by energyhelpline just offsets that. I also note there is the fatuous claim that having a ‘smart’ meter can help.

  12. markl permalink
    December 22, 2020 5:32 pm

    So the plan is to redistribute the wealth but at the rate we’re going only the extreme rich will be able to afford living expenses. Ah, that’s the real plan. Bankrupt every body and every business in preparation for the One World Government to come to the rescue. Sound far out? Think about it.

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      December 22, 2020 7:12 pm

      Nope. Not far out Markl. The great Reset is designed to move things on. The CCP couldn’t be happier, along with their elite idiots (you know their names) like Attenborough, Deben and Porritt etc who will pave the way for them.

  13. Gamecock permalink
    December 22, 2020 10:38 pm

    ‘Electricity is too expensive to make heat pumps worthwhile, MPs have warned, as they urged the government to rethink environmental costs passed onto customers.’

    Dammit, people! We’re trying to save a planet here! What does it matter what it costs ???

    Well, other than that you are killing your economy for no reason.

  14. December 23, 2020 9:13 am

    If you must have electric heating, programmable storage heaters are much cheaper than heat pumps. Some can double up as convection heaters if the stored heat runs out.

  15. BLACK PEARL permalink
    December 23, 2020 8:12 pm

    Seeing all the wood burners installed around my area, real pollution is starting to return, you can smell & taste it in the air.
    It took years to establish smokeless zones away from coal fires and now its creeping back !
    Local Govt is missing out on a real pollution tax 🙂

    • Gamecock permalink
      December 24, 2020 11:49 am

      I rather enjoy the smell of wood fires.

  16. Charles Turner permalink
    December 29, 2020 12:41 pm

    Hi Paul,

    Thought this might interest you if you have not seen it?

    Danish electric and gas Grid info



  17. December 31, 2020 10:51 am

    The sudden realisation now, which I am sure we have all been concerned about for many years, is revealed here with the possibility of being blackmailed by the EU due to the UK’s pathetic Energy Policy over many years.

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