Government cuts incentives for heat pumps and gives oil and gas industry money for nothing

The much-trumpeted ‘new’ £5000 grant for installation of domestic heat pumps is in fact a cut in the incentives available for heat pumps compared to the existing heat pump support scheme. This is the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) under which heat pumps are currently funded. Under the RHI homeowners who install heat pumps receive £1000 each year for seven years – £7000 in all. True, a lot of people will prefer getting the £5000 upfront (especially if they are relatively short of money), but the notion, apparent in today’s media that this is some new, expanded low carbon funding programme is simply not the case. It is a cut in support!

I do appreciate that the heat pump industry (such as it is at the moment) will be only too pleased for getting some support at least, and a publicity boost with this announcement. However that should not allow everybody to be fooled that this is some great new leap forward. It ain’t!

One piece of partial good news in the Government’s proposals for ‘clean heat grants’ is that the notion of hydrogen for heating has been kicked into the long grass – no decision will be made until 2026 they say. But then the idea of blue hydrogen for heating is nothing more than a delaying tactic (in effect if not in motivation) to help  the (unmitigated) natural gas industry.

It’s ridiculous that the hydrogen-for-heating debate is structured about legislating for ‘hydrogen ready boilers’ when this measure sits at the top of a veritable iceberg of things that would need to happen to make blue-hydrogen-for-heating a reality. You’d need a pipeline system to dispose of the C02 in offshore salt caverns (that would be better used to store renewable hydrogen anyway); you’d need the gas pipeline system to be refurbished to transport hydrogen (not possible before 2030); and you’d need a high efficiency (ie about 99% or more) way of converting the methane into hydrogen (which may be possible but may be very expensive). It all seems a very expensive prospect to me when we can be deploying heat pumps now. So it’s really incredible to read that  Government are going to give the oil and gas industry £120 million to develop this system! Money for nothing!

Meanwhile, hovering in the background is EDF waiting for the Government to guarantee paying them what will be well over £20 billion for building Sizewell C. The Government is biding its time before caving into EDF’s demands for a blank cheque for construction costs.  Compare that with the just £3.9 billion promised for spending on the entire low carbon homes programme (and also the lack of support for district heating with large heat pumps) and you can see where the Government’s priorities really are at.

David Toke



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