This Editor's Comment is from our April 2019 issue.

Has the government sounded the death knell for gas and oil? In Chancellor Philip Hammond’s Spring Statement, he announced that the government intends to ban fossil fuels in newbuild homes from 2025.

Both natural gas and oil have been a significant fuel source for heating systems for decades, so to signal an abrupt end to both (at least for new homes) in the next six years certainly seems like an ambitious target. However, as you will have seen previously in the pages of HVP, the need to decarbonise heat is an issue that is being taken seriously.

The government has already committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emission levels by at least 80% compared to 1990 levels by 2050, so a move to ban fossil fuels in new homes could play a significant role in helping it meet this target.

The industry has been no slouch either in assisting the need to meet the future demand for decarbonised heat. Worcester Bosch has developed a hydrogen-gas firing prototype boiler, and Calor has engineered ‘BioLPG’, a fuel made from a blend of waste, residues, and sustainably-sourced vegetable oils, which it says is chemically identical to conventional LPG. 

However, the question to ask is: how much of an impact will a move to ban fossil fuels from newbuilds truly have on reducing emissions?

The move to low emission heating systems is certainly a welcome and positive move by government, however there’s a big question surrounding carbon emissions that this policy doesn’t help to answer. 

Many low-emission systems are powered by electricity and, although electricity can be generated via renewable means, more often than not, it isn’t. According to Carbon

Brief, just 33.4% of electricity generated in the UK in 2018 was from renewable sources. Admittedly, this is up from 29% in 2017 and 6.7% in 2009, but we are still overly reliant on gas and oil for our electricity generation.

Heating systems are an easy scapegoat as they are at the end of that emission production process, but surely it makes more sense to make those reductions at the earliest possible stage? 

The government removing funding for renewable energy projects such as the Swansea Tidal Lagoon, set to be the world’s first tidal lagoon power plant, certainly seems to suggest that it needs to focus more on the cause, not just the symptoms.