Residents who protested against a scheme switching out their fossil fuel-powered heating systems for clean alternatives have prompted calls for the Government to scrap its green plans. The Government’s plan for its first “Net Zero” village in Whitby fell flat after residents protested against the scheme.
It would have forced them to swap out their current heating systems for either a heat pump or hydrogen-powered boiler. Meanwhile, the gas grid in their area was set to switch to hydrogen as early as 2025.
It was a key test of Britain’s net zero drive, the target requiring the Government to slash all its greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 to address the climate crisis.
However, the small town of around 2,000 people in Ellesmere Port did not take kindly to being a test bed. But because the Government said it needed “strong community engagement support” to ensure “the success of a project like this”, the plan was scrapped.
According to the financial columnist Matthew Lynn, the rejection of the scheme is “surely proof that we should go a step further and scrap all top-down Net Zero targets”.
He wrote in an opinion piece for the Daily Telegraph: “In reality, the revolt against the hydrogen village neatly illustrates that when green technologies are rammed down our throats we don’t like it very much.
“Heat pumps? Despite massive subsidies, there is very little demand, possibly because they don’t work very well.”
Heat pumps are a low-carbon alternative to gas boilers which the Government has been trying to roll out on-scale. But as Mr Lynn mentions, public uptake has not gone as hoped.
Average installation costs are around £10,000, but even with the £5,000 Government grant halving this figure, potential buyers are still being put off. In fact, the Government is planning on banning new gas boiler installations from 2035.
But speaking to Express.co.uk, Mike Foster from the Energy and Utilities Alliance, has said that according to the Government’s 2021 Heat and Buildings Strategy, gas boilers would be not be banned in 2035 if their alternatives remain at unaffordable prices.
He said: “It is clear that the cost of installing heat pumps is many times higher than that of installing a gas boiler or replacing a gas boiler.
“As a consequence, that affordability gap cannot be met by consumers. Therefore, looking at alternatives such as keeping boilers but changing the gap that goes through the natural gas pipeline to something like hydrogen got to be the most sensible way forward.
“I believe that for the majority of homes currently on the gas grid, having a boiler-based alternative in the form of hydrogen-ready boilers has to be the most logical approach a Government can take.”
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However, Mr Lynn warned that heat pumps are not the only unpopular element of net zero.
He wrote: “Electric cars? Even with the tax breaks on offer, sales are now falling again, with the AA finding last week that only 18 percent of us plan to buy electric next time, compared with 25 per cent last year, possibly because costs have risen and there aren’t enough chargers.
“Windmills on the local farmland, or local nuclear generators? No one actually wants them in their community.”
While Mr Lynn may be put off by the site of a clean energy turbine, the planet-saving power systems are actually the cheapest form of electricity generation.
The Government also already has an existing ban in place that prevents new onshore wind developments in England. Experts have even warned that this has left the country more exposed to the volatile global energy market’s price hike and kept it reliant on expensive fossil fuel imports.
With one of the highest gas dependencies in Europe despite only getting five percent of its gas from Russia, the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit claimed this cost each UK household an extra £1,000 last year.
However, after facing a rebellion from backbench MPs, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he would consider changing scaling back the 2015 policy to allow new developments in areas with local consent.
Mr Lynn added that “there is nothing wrong with switching to greener energy” but warned that it “needs to be done voluntarily, because the technology is cheaper and better, rather than as part of a centrally-planned system that leads to unwanted changes being made to people’s homes”.
BEIS has been approached for comment.
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