Heat pump grants also increased by 50% in major net zero policy shake-up

A fifth of households will now never have to replace their gas boiler, Rishi Sunak said tonight. The prime minister also increased grants to replace oil or gas boilers with low carbon technologies such as heat pumps by 50%.

In a press conference setting out a major shake-up of the government’s net zero agenda, the prime minister said the UK needed a more “pragmatic and realistic approach to net zero which eases the burden on British people”.

Homes with oil fired heating systems will able to buy new boilers until 2035. The original deadline was 2026.

Sunak said heat pumps need to be made cheaper without imposing high costs on hard-pressed families at a time while technology is still expensive.

Sunak net zero speech 20 09

Sunak making the announcements this afternoon

The boiler upgrade scheme, which provides grants to replace fossil fuel fired boilers with a heat pump or biomass boiler, has been increased from £5,000 to £7,500.

Sunak said there will be “no strings attached” to the grants and none of the money will need to be paid back.

He said the up-front cost of replacing a boiler could be around £10,000. “Even the most committed advocates of net zero must recognise that, if our solution is to force people to pay that kind of money, support will collapse and will simply never get there.”

He said he was introducing a new exemption to help those households for which this would be hardest – thought to be around 5 million homes – “so that they will never have to switch at all”.

The ban on new petrol and diesel cars has also been pushed back by five years to 2035, and they will still be available to buy second hand after this date.

The prime minister confirmed the ban on onshore wind would be lifted following an amendment to the Energy Bill earlier this month.

Sunak said he would set out the next stage of the government’s net zero agenda before the COP28 climate conference, which is taking place in Dubai at the end of November.

Reacting to the announcements, Eddie Tuttle, director of policy, research and public affairs at the Chartered Institute of Building, said it was “disappointing” to hear Sunak scale back targets made in the government’s own net zero growth plan six months ago.

“Energy consumption in buildings accounts for almost half of the UK’s carbon emissions so to deprioritise this issue is baffling when the government should instead be finding ways to support homeowners to retrofit their properties and improve their energy efficiency for the lowest possible cost.

“The boiler upgrade scheme has had very low take-up and in our view, increasing the grant available to homeowners will make little difference, as the remaining 25% will still be unaffordable for many households amidst a cost of living crisis.

“If the government remains committed to reaching net zero by 2050, as they say they are, then they must set out how they plan to achieve this without reducing the reliance on carbon-based fuels to heat homes on the scale and at the pace required.”