Homeowners in England and Wales will be offered subsidies of £5,000 from next April to help them to replace old gas boilers with low carbon heat pumps.
Ministers have unveiled plans for £5,000 grants to allow people to install home heat pumps and other low-carbon boiler replacements as part of a wider heat and buildings strategy that some campaigners warned lacked sufficient ambition and funding.
The grants are part of the government’s £3.9bn plan to reduce carbon emissions from heating homes and other buildings.
It is hoped no new gas boilers will be sold after 2035. The funding also aims to make social housing and public buildings more energy efficient.
With the crucial Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow starting in a fortnight, the business and energy secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, said recent gas price rises “have highlighted the need to double down on our efforts to reduce Britain’s reliance on fossil fuels and move away from gas boilers over the coming decade”.
He said: “As the technology improves and costs plummet over the next decade, we expect low-carbon heating systems will become the obvious, affordable choice for consumers.”
But experts say the budget is too low and the strategy not ambitious enough.
Ministers say the subsidises will make heat pumps a comparable price to a new gas boiler. However, the £450m being allocated for the subsidies over three years will cover a maximum of 90,000 pumps.
Mike Childs, head of science at Friends of the Earth, said the number of heat pumps that the grants would cover “just isn’t very much” and meant the UK would not meet its aim of installing 600,000 heat pumps a year by 2028.
“Investment will drive down the cost of heat pumps, and technical innovation plus skills training is a part of this, but so is scale. These grants will only incentivise the best-off households,” he said.
Greenpeace UK’s climate campaigner, Caroline Jones, said the government needed to provide more money to speed up the switch from gas boilers to heat pumps.
“A clearer signal would have been a phase-out of new boilers before 2035,” she said.
Jonny Marshall, senior economist the Resolution Foundation, a think tank focusing on poverty, said the plan meant the UK would struggle to meet its goal of cutting emissions from homes in half by 2035.
The UK has committed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.
But a group of experts that advises the government says Boris Johnson’s government has credible policies in place to deliver only about a fifth of this cut.