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Boris Johnson kicks gas boiler ban into the long grass after mounting backlash

July 27, 2021

By Paul Homewood

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According to news reports, the Prime Minister is set to delay the gas boiler ban by 5 years, shifting it to 2040. Boris Johnson’s about-turn is a big win for critics who have been campaigning against this extremely costly and unpopular plan in recent weeks.

Sensible though these changes are, there is more to do, and the GWPF is calling on the Prime Minister to extend the delay also to the planned 2025 ban on gas boilers in new-build properties. This plan threatens to add many thousands of pounds to a new-built property and would make buying a new home unaffordable for most young Britons and ordinary families.

Boris Johnson is right to be concerned about the social and political risks and repercussions of a hugely unpopular ban. The GWPF has been urging the Prime Minister to pause and reconsider the poorly designed and extremely costly green home heating plans. His decision to delay the ban will now allow ministers to go back to the drawing board and consider realistic alternatives.

The GWPF’s director Benny Peiser said:

The gas boiler reprieve is a clear indication that growing criticism of the ban has made a real difference. Johnson’s intervention, overriding industry lobbying, is a welcome development and marks the first significant success in the campaign against Net Zero’s astronomical cost burden.”

It is almost certain that it won’t be the last costly Net Zero plan that will have to be delayed, watered down or scrapped as public concern and anger grows.”

Britons are set to be allowed up to five more years before a ban on sales of all new gas boilers comes into force, in a major row-back for Boris Johnson amid a backlash over the soaring cost of ‘net zero’ ahead of the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow later this year.

The Prime Minister is looking at delaying the ban by five years to 2040, in a move which would give millions of UK households more time for new hydrogen boilers and heat-pumps to fall in price, and for businesses to pump more money into shifting people over gradually.

The public is set to be incentivised to buy an eco-friendly heat-pump next time their boiler breaks down – but the delay to introducing the ban means working boilers could have to be taken out before 2050, or the UK could fail to hit its ‘net zero’ carbon emission targets.

It comes amid a mounting backlash over the spiralling cost of Mr Johnson’s so-called green revolution, with Government insiders fearful that the proposals could add another £400billion on top of the enormous sums accrued during the Covid pandemic.

Hydrogen boilers are one of the possible replacements for gas boilers, with others including ground source or air source heat pumps, but these cost upwards of £14,000 or £11,000 respectively.

Other options include solar photovoltaic panels or solar water heating which both come in at about £5,000 for a full fitting. A hydrogen-ready boiler is intended to be a like-for-like swap for an existing gas boiler, but the cost is unknown, with estimates ranging from £1,500 to £5,000.

The Prime Minister is looking at delaying the ban by five years to 2040, in a move which would give millions of UK households more time for new hydrogen boilers and heat-pumps to fall in price, and for businesses to pump more money into shifting people over gradually.

As part of the net zero plan – which would decarbonise the economy by 2050 – No10 had been expected to publish in the spring details of the strategy for moving away from gas boilers ahead of Glasgow’s COP26 climate change conference in November. But this has been delayed until the autumn amid mounting alarm about the bill.

The Chancellor – who is already looking for ways to pay back the £400billion cost of the Covid crisis and the £10billion a year required to reform long-term care for the elderly – is understood to have baulked at estimates of hitting net zero at more than £1.4trillion.

Ignore the nonsense about heat pumps coming down in price. They won’t, and nothing alters their fundamental unsuitability.

Similarly the article, which comes from the Mail, utterly misses the point about hydrogen boilers. It is not their cost which is an issue, but the mind boggling cost of setting up a hydrogen network, not to mention the fact that hydrogen will massively increase consumers’ energy bills. Indeed, the whole Mail story shows just how poorly they understand these issues.

 

The PM has obviously concluded that this potato is much too hot, and decided to kick it down the road for his successor, just as his predecessors did.

34 Comments
  1. July 27, 2021 1:42 pm

    “the Prime Minister is set to delay the gas boiler ban by 5 years”

    50 years would be better, 500 years would be optimal

    • Duker permalink
      July 28, 2021 1:17 am

      In politics 5 years IS 50 years

  2. It doesn't add up... permalink
    July 27, 2021 1:45 pm

    We’re getting there at last.

    I’ve been commenting on hydrogen elsewhere today.

    The real killer for hydrogen is cost. Already we are seeing criticisms of a strategy of electrification and heat pumps because in practice they don’t work as well as assumed, meaning massive additional investment in insulation that takes for ever to pay for itself and because electricity is vastly more costly than methane, leaving householdswoth much higher bills.

    Industry consultants Timera, who have advised many clients considering hydrogen projects, advise that green hydrogen at wholesale costs $30-40/MMBtu, compared with Henry Hub gas prices of $3-4/MMBtu. It’s ten times as expensive as gas.
    Supply problems with pipe networks are more about the need for extra capacity, because hydrogen has only a third the energy density of methane. To deliver the same energy, you must deliver 3 times the volume of gas. Your storage needs to be 3 times as big. But that is only a start, as you can’t simply resort to asking the Norwegians to pump a bit harder from their fields, or order up some extra LNG tankers because the weather is cold. These solutions have allowed the UK to economise on storage. But they’re simply not available for hydrogen. UK gas demand on a cold day can run to 4.4TWh, almost 4 times as much as cold weather electricity demand. A large LNG tanker can hold 1 TWh of methane. We don’t have the technology for bulk shipments of liquid hydrogen, even if you could find a supplier.

    Green hydrogen production relies on highly intermittent energy sources. Given that wind farms also have to supply electricity you must choose between running your electrolysers and supplying electricity demand if there is not enough wind to generate a surplus. If you run the electrolysers it means you have to provide the electricity from something else – reliable, dispatchable power that is going to be expensive because you are creating extra demand in low supply conditions. In a windless winter cold spell, just when heating demand is highest, things will get really difficult.

    Even when there is surplus wind there is no free lunch. To create the surplus you have to build extra wind farms. The surplus is not free, because those wind farms have to cover their costs to be viable. If you choose to subsidise the input to electrolysers then you will have to charge electricity consumers extra to cover the difference. If you build dedicated wind farms (the CCC is contemplating the most expensive floating offshore variety, with offshore electorlysers and a hydrogen pipe to shore) then the full cost must be covered.

    Moreover, it will never make economic sense to invest in electrolyser capacity to absorb the highest levels of surplus which only occur on very windy nights in the small hours when demand is low. There is a trade off that means you still end up with surplus power that must be curtailed.

    The idea that the rest of the world will be queuing up to install extremely expensive hydrogen production is surely one of the bigger green fantasies. It simply serves to make British industry uncompetitive internationally, and reliant on subsidies.

    The danger is, as Mr Houchen must surely know, that such subsidies cannot be afforded in the longer term, and by having uncompetitive technology and costs the industries will be forced to close, losing the jobs they support.

    Though some on the Left may think otherwise, the Treasury’s coffers are not bottomless.

    Mr Houchen appears to suffer this delusion of the Left.

    • July 27, 2021 5:51 pm

      Kwasi Kwarteng has admitted that all smart meters would have to be replaced if hydrogen is introduced into homes as current versions can’t detect it.

      • Joe Public permalink
        July 27, 2021 7:10 pm

        Some of us are lucky enough to have a Positive Displacement (Diaphragm) Meter which just measures the gas volume flowing through it. 😀

    • Joe Public permalink
      July 27, 2021 7:26 pm

      Hi IDAU – thanks for your analysis.

      “…. pipe networks are more about the need for extra capacity, because hydrogen has only a third the energy density of methane. To deliver the same energy, you must deliver 3 times the volume of gas. Your storage needs to be 3 times as big.”

      Yes, hydrogen’s 30% volumetric energy density vs natural gas affects storage, volumetric metering and volumetric controls.

      However:

      “2.4. Energy delivery and energy storage capacity of the network
      The energy carrying capacity of hydrogen is about 20–30% less for a pipeline of the same pipe diameter and pressure drop than for natural gas [17], [45], despite the much lower volumetric energy density of hydrogen being offset by a much higher flow rate. This means that the hydrogen energy transmission capacity at an unchanged pressure is approximately 20% lower than the UK annual average calorific value of 39.5 MJ/m3 for natural gas

      (My bold)

      See Point 2.4: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360319913006800

    • Gamecock permalink
      July 27, 2021 7:33 pm

      Good points, doesn’t. But I think it will be safety that kills hydrogen. There is no odorant for it, unlike nat gas. Bringing hydrogen into residences, and people having no way to notice a leak, is going to be catastrophic.

      • Joe Public permalink
        July 27, 2021 8:27 pm

        ” ….it will be safety that kills hydrogen. There is no odorant for it, unlike nat gas.”

        Natural gas is colourless, tasteless and odourless. Because it is odourless, an odorant (80% tertiarybutyl mercaptan, 20% dimethyl sulphide) is added to the gas, to give the gas a distinctive smell.

        Click to access Material_comparators_for_fuels_-_natural_gas.pdf

        Odourant would similarly be added to hydrogen.

        Hydrogen has wider flammability and explosive limits, and considerably less energy is needed to ignite it.

        Whilst a natural gas flame is visible, a hydrogen flame is virtually invisible.

      • It doesn't add up... permalink
        July 27, 2021 8:37 pm

        One problem is Graham’s Law, which states that a gas diffuses at a rate that is inversely proportional to the square root of molecular weight. TBM has a MW of 90, vs hydrogen’s 2, which means it diffuses at only 15% of the rate. You could get explosive mixtures before you are aware of them.

      • Duker permalink
        July 28, 2021 1:21 am

        Doesnt the difference down from 90 to 2 meant H2 floats upwards and away

      • Joe Public permalink
        July 28, 2021 9:41 am

        Duker

        “Doesn’t the difference down from 90 to 2 meant H2 floats upwards and away”

        The concern is that its venting route may initially be part internal, and, may pass a source of ignition. (The energy required to cause ignition is extremely low)

        That’s one of the reasons for concern about adding a proportion of H2 to natural gas for use by power-generation turbines.

        “Injecting hydrogen into the gas network – a literature search
        Prepared by the Health and Safety Laboratory for the Health and Safety Executive 2015

        Section 3.7.1.9 Gas turbines:

        “A particular concern regarding ignition is the presence of hydrogen; since this gas ignites easily, there is concern that even small quantities of hydrogen in natural gas would be catastrophic for turbine behaviour.”

        The Gas Operational Forum 17th October 2019 acknowledges “certain customers may unable to accept hydrogen blends” and so there’s a need to actually de-blend hydrogen out of a natural Gas / H2 blend for those customers. (Power stations!)

        YCMIU

    • Jordan permalink
      July 27, 2021 9:28 pm

      “by having uncompetitive technology and costs the industries will be forced to close, losing the jobs they support.”
      Plus ca change.
      Apart from Thatcherite dogma and the art of lining the pockets of middle class supporters, I recall the motivation for electricity privatisation was said to be the likes of ICI complaining bitterly about uncompetitive energy costs and threatening to walk out of GB plc.

    • MikeHig permalink
      July 28, 2021 7:26 pm

      Idau: that’s an excellent summary of the massive difficulties with trying to move to a “Hydrogen Economy”. If you don’t mind, I’ll keep a copy for use in other places.
      A while back I read a report which had been prepared for DECC on the safety implications of switching domestic gas over to hydrogen.
      The team refurbished an unused farmhouse to “modern” standards and fitted it with hydrogen piping and valved vents to allow them to simulate leaks in different places. They put sensors in all the rooms at different heights to see where gas would accumulate and at what concentration.
      Amusingly, althought there was no source of ignition in the house (hydrogen compatible instruments) they set up their controls in a shed 200m away!
      Their finding, iirc, was that hydrogen would be no worse than methane provided that there was adequate ventilation between floors, into the roof space and to atmosphere…..
      Interestingly they also rigged up an integral garage to simulate a car with a hydrogen fuel cell. For that they recommended a gas-tight internal door, a shaped roof with a vented high point and a hydrogen monitor which would isolate all wires going in.
      My overall impression was of an extensive study tailored to produce the results required by the client.

  3. GeoffB permalink
    July 27, 2021 2:07 pm

    Although it is a win, it is fairly minor in the scheme of net zero. The climate change act has to be repealed, then I may celebrate.

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      July 27, 2021 5:40 pm

      If you force the infantry to turn tail the cavalry can’t charge. Eventually you get the whole army in retreat and defeat.

  4. July 27, 2021 2:12 pm

    And when we are carbon zero? Oh dear, the plants aren’t growing, how are we to feed the nation? Agreed GeoffB, abandon all these crazy unscientific plans.

  5. Thomas Carr permalink
    July 27, 2021 2:22 pm

    That will choke the Greens.
    there may be a better time to draw this to your attention but justifies going off topic today.

    UEA Research:

    This is another one for the pot. Apparently more clouds will make the earth warmer. To my mind this is apparent every time there is a cloudy night. Scientists and the well informed among us will enjoy:-

    https://www.uea.ac.uk/news/-/article/global-satellite-data-shows-clouds-will-amplify-globalheating?

    • JimW permalink
      July 27, 2021 2:28 pm

      More clouds means less extreme of temperatures, slightly warmer nights and cooler days. Its consistent with the generally panic inducing outbeak of mildness, which is all the temperature data is showing.

    • July 27, 2021 3:06 pm

      “That will choke the Greens”. I think not, they will surely celebrate an opportunity to be “greener” than the current govt.

  6. JimW permalink
    July 27, 2021 2:26 pm

    Its better than nothing, but the EPC rating also has to be delayed. Forcing everyone ( and leased properties first) to spend billions on ill advised insulation for older properties typical in the UK to obtain EPC C ratings is even worse. The UK housing stock is not designed for this, it will cause extreme damp problems and other structural issues. As well as being of minor use in lowering energy use.

    • Robert Christopher permalink
      July 27, 2021 2:55 pm

      So many dominoes to fall, one at a time, with a pause of unknown length between each one …

      Just repeal the 2008 Climate Change Act … and remove the offending propaganda from school text books.

      It would be a start.

    • Vernon E permalink
      July 27, 2021 4:04 pm

      Jim W: a very astute comment. Fixing the EPC at C (is it?) has the potential to wreck the housing market and impact the wealth of many ordinary families. But as they dig themselves further in the more difficult it will become to retract.

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      July 27, 2021 5:45 pm

      I submitted a response to the EPC C “consultation”. I’ve not heard a word back. It’s currently somewhere in the long grass.

  7. July 27, 2021 2:36 pm

    Thomas Carr, wasn’t the UEA the very same university that put out computer models which declared that we would all be suffering from extreme heat and weather because of global warming by 2010? And the guy who is/was concerned about all this drives around in a Stag!

    • Joe Public permalink
      July 27, 2021 2:51 pm

      Yup.

      But there is a God.

      She designed the Campus layout at UEA and placed the entrance/exit doors to the Tyndall Centre for Climatic Research (CRU) directly opposite UEA’s gas-fired boiler house. 🤣🤣🤣

      And here are the Climategate miscreants whose view from their office window is that boilerhouse.

      • Jordan permalink
        July 27, 2021 9:43 pm

        If they ever decide put that building to some useful purpose, I’d suggest it is converted into a diesel fuel tank.

  8. July 27, 2021 2:58 pm

    Sweet irony!

  9. Harry Passfield permalink
    July 27, 2021 3:10 pm

    Delay or not, BJ is still trying to get me to throw out a fairly new £5k Worcester-Bosch boiler, which works a treat and has reasonable running costs, install larger rads, pay five times the cost of a new heating installation with useless ASHPs, and expect me to pay five times the price for running it; all without seeking any kind of mandate!
    Take my heating away, Boris, and lose my vote.

  10. Ian PRSY permalink
    July 27, 2021 3:36 pm

    This is going to impact on all those silly councils who have declared climate emergencies and committed themselves (or, rather, their council tax payers and businesses) to achieving net zero with things like the switch from gas, early adoption of ASHPs, etc.

  11. Phil O'Sophical permalink
    July 27, 2021 3:41 pm

    On net zero, according to that well known scientist, Allegra Stratton, in today’s Telegraph, we can all play our part towards that goal.

    One of her suggestions is not rinsing dishes before you put them in your dishwasher[sic]. I should be so lucky. Oh, and freeze half a loaf so you don’t end up throwing it away; thanks, Allegra. We plebs are far too dim to think of things like that on the simple economic grounds of the family budget.

    But she must know of what she talks. I mean just look at her CV: BBC, Times, Independent, New Statesman, Guardian, ITV, and now spokesperson for the COP26. And by the way, she calls herself a Conservative.

    • Duker permalink
      July 28, 2021 1:27 am

      The bread that is wasted is mostly at the supply end. The supermarkets have a constant stream of new product coming through and to clear the limited shelf space it goes to the piggeries if not sold. Its all very well for ‘spinsters’ to freeze ‘half a loaf’ to make it last for 8 days , but those with families soon find the consumption of bread will match the supply available

  12. Dave Ward permalink
    July 27, 2021 3:54 pm

    “Johnson’s intervention, overriding industry lobbying, is a welcome development”

    Now let’s hope he overrides the Communist supporters in Sage & Independent Sage, to say nothing of telling “Her Indoors” to wind her neck in….

  13. Matt Dalby permalink
    July 30, 2021 1:29 am

    Good news, however the next target to be delayed/kicked into the long grass needs to be the ban on petrol and diesel cars.

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