The government should set a clear legal date for banning the sale of new gas boilers as part of efforts to reduce emissions from homes, MPs demanded.
Around 29 million existing UK homes will need to be retrofitted with low-carbon heating systems, along with energy efficiency measures such as insulation, as part of the drive to achieve overall zero pollution by 2050.
But MEPs on the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Beis) Committee said the government’s approach to reducing carbon emissions in homes lacks clear direction and current policy does not have the scale needed.
The committee’s chair, Darren Jones, said replacing gas boilers, the main source of household pollution, is “a huge task and we’re not making nearly enough progress”.
In a report, the committee calls on the government to launch a public awareness campaign to explain to the public how their heating systems will change and the potential costs and benefits of the switch.
Mr Jones said: “Billpayers today are deeply concerned about their energy bills as many people struggle to afford to heat their homes.
“Most people don’t realize that their gas boiler will need to be replaced within the next 10 to 15 years.
“Government and energy companies should explain to billpayers why going off gas and insulating our homes is not only important to combating climate change, but also a way to reduce energy bills.
“The government must also spell out what financial aid will be made available to those who need it most.”
According to the report, experts have calculated that decarbonising homes would cost an average of less than £10,000 per household, although there would be potential savings on the bills from things like greater energy efficiency and the need for support for vulnerable and energy-poor households.
There must be a sectoral contract on “heat decarbonisation” to support the development of low-carbon heating technologies, the committee’s report says.
The government also urgently needs to work with industry and unions to develop a training program on low-carbon heating and expand the heat pump market to meet the government’s target of 600,000 heat pumps per year by 2028.
And it should propose rules – the Future Homes Standard – mandating that newly built homes must phase out fossil fuel heating systems by 2025-2023.
Meeting the climate targets requires a ban on the installation and use of gas boilers in existing buildings by the mid-2030s at the latest, and the government should set a clear, specific end date that will legislate the phase-out of gas boilers, the report said.
The government’s current “signals” do not give industry and consumers a clear date to work towards, and ministers should set out their plan for how they expect to phase out the installation and use of gas boilers by 2035, it said Report.
“Action is needed to improve insulation and energy efficiency in our homes and to accelerate the pace of deploying low-carbon heating systems, all at a lower cost to homes than today.
“The ministers cannot simply leave that to the market. (The) government should address the cost of heating our homes as a group and push for common policies that tackle these issues together,” Mr Jones said.
Industry association Energy UK chief executive Emma Pinchbeck said: “Heating our homes produces emissions equivalent to those of petrol and diesel cars and just as we have a clear timeframe to make real progress on transport we need the same Clarity for warmth.
“As the report points out, significant gaps remain between UK targets and policy frameworks for low-carbon heat.”
She said government and industry must work together to engage consumers in the changes, adding that protecting fuel-poor and vulnerable consumers during the transition is “absolutely crucial”.
Greenpeace UK Policy Director Doug Parr said: “Energy bills are set to skyrocket and Britain’s dependence on gas is at the heart of the problem.
“But the government’s plans to replace our boilers and make our homes greener, which would also help combat the climate and energy price crises, fall short.”
He added: “Whatever the final end date for gas boilers will not be reached unless the government provides sufficient support to help homeowners make the switch to heat pumps, thereby building the skills and jobs that are required to reduce costs.
“This has to go hand in hand with improving energy efficiency – you can’t have one without the other. But the money is lacking and the ministers have made it difficult for themselves to plan.”