Energy Security: a faster roll-out of renewables and nuclear can reduce our exposure to high and volatile gas prices but will eliminate that exposure only if we electrify domestic heating. Heat pumps in a smart grid will also help manage the intermittency of renewables. At the end of 2021, electricity from Britain’s newest offshore wind farms cost a fixed price of £57.50/MWh while the volatile price of gas-fired electricity was over four times higher – £245/MWh.
Air Quality: the gas boiler emits not only CO2 but also nitrogen dioxide, which causes asthma and other respiratory diseases. Boilers produce around a fifth of the NOx in London and other big cities, and on current trends the government will miss its 2030 UK NOx target. Decarbonising heat would help put that right.
Health: gas boilers make people ill, not only through the pollution they emit, but also when people can’t afford to turn them on. Living in cold homes kills 27,000 people each year and costs the NHS £1.4-£2 billion annually in England alone.
Jobs and Skills: we need to train over 50,000 heat pump engineers by 2030, and 500,000 professionals and tradespeople to install insulation and other retrofit measures, manage projects and provide consumer advice, and yet more in manufacturing.
Fuel poverty and Levelling Up: fuel poverty is caused by a combination of low incomes and poorly insulated homes, now exacerbated by sky-high gas prices. Decarbonising heat and raising efficiency will help with both. A once in a generation renewal of Britain’s housing stock will create warm, thermally efficient homes, and provide hundreds of thousands of good jobs (see above). It is hard to imagine another programme that could simultaneously deliver so much of the government’s Levelling Up agenda.