Confusion reigns as Whitehall briefing contradicts PM’s net zero speech

There are increasing concerns that civil servants in the Department for Energy Security & Net Zero (DESNZ) are attempting to undermine the Prime Minister’s attempts to reset the UK’s net zero policies, says trade body the Energy and Utilities Alliance (EUA).

In a briefing issued to the heating industry only hours after the PM’s net zero speech officials outlined their continuing approach to “encouraging” households to fit heat pumps, retaining unrealistic targets for heat pump installations and their commitment to the Clean Heat Market Mechanism (CHMM) that will add hundreds of pounds to the cost of a new boiler.

The EUA said it is calling on the Number 10 and the Department for Energy Security & Net Zero (DESNZ) to confirm policy direction for decarbonising heating, as claims around heat pump installations in the Prime Minister’s speech last week unravel.

Mike Foster, Chief Executive of the EUA said it’s not clear who is driving domestic heat policy. “The Prime Minister’s net zero reset is unravelling fast. He told the country that households did not need to fit a heat pump instead of a gas boiler until 2035, but Whitehall officials have directly contradicted this by insisting that 600,000 heat pumps are fitted a year by 2028. That’s one in three homes. Which is it, Prime Minister?”

Under Whitehall targets one in three homes will need to be fitting heat pumps and not gas boilers, seven years earlier than the Prime Minister’s alluded to in his speech.

Mr Foster said consumers will foot the bill. “We now know how they plan to do this, by putting a boiler tax on the cost of a new boiler to make them more expensive. The downside of all this is that those who cannot afford a heat pump, will have to pay more to buy a boiler.”

In his speech, the Prime Minister explained that his new policy was driven by concerns about the cost of heat pumps compared to gas boilers. According to the government average, heat pumps cost £13,000 each compared to £2,500 for a gas boiler replacement.

Mr Foster continued: “Even with the extra money provided for the Boiler Upgrade Scheme which now offers a grant of £7,500, homeowners will still need to pay around £5,500 for a heat pump installation – a grant which is now capped at 20,000 homes per year.”

Amid the lack of consumer demand highlighted by the Prime Minister in his speech, the CHMM threatens to fine boiler manufacturers £340 million next year if they fail to fit 68,000 heat pumps. The following year fine will be over £500 million. It is expected that boiler manufacturers will increase the price of a boiler to pay for the fine or “boiler tax” as it has been dubbed.

“I want to believe the Prime Minister is genuine in his intent but the briefing from officials suggests his statement was all spin and not for real,” said Mr Foster. “He can prove he genuinely believes what he said by scrapping the CHMM and not imposing a further boiler tax on heating our own homes.”