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Government indecision over gas boilers is causing confusion

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Less than 10% of Britain’s buildings are currently heated by electricity. Practically all the rest rely upon natural gas. But it is clear that the days of the gas boiler – the means by which most British buildings are heated – are intended to be numbered by the Government in order to reduce carbon emissions – even though new gas condensing boilers are well over 95% efficient.

The problem that policy makers face is that, for several decades, building regulations have been written on the basis that gas heating is the default preferred means of heating homes. Apart from studio and one-bedroom flats, the economics of electric heating simply do not stack up.  

Indeed, the main pressure in favour of electric heating has come from buy-to-let landlords, who did not want the hassle of having to organise an annual gas safety survey for each and every property they own. But even that ‘unique selling point’ has now vanished. Since April 2021, it has been mandatory for landlords to provide an electricity safety survey too.   

Back in May 2020, the Government announced that it would be issuing a new buildings and heating strategy ‘shortly’, to demonstrate how gas boilers can be eliminated. It didn’t appear then. Nor during autumn 2020. Or last winter. The strategy was still due ‘shortly’ in spring 2021. Then during this summer, at the time of going to press, the latest timing might be September 2021.  

But don’t hold your breath. With Government spokespersons airily promising that we will, “transition away from fossil fuel boilers to more efficient alternatives which can lower energy costs overall,” it is obviously causing sleepless nights in Whitehall, desperately trying to work out just how this particular circle can ever be squared.  

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