16 November 2021
On 19 October 2021, the government released their long-awaited Heat and buildings strategy. The Heat and buildings strategy sets out how the government plans to eliminate ‘virtually all emissions arising from heating, cooling and energy use in our buildings’. To achieve this, housing associations need to replace all fossil fuel heating appliances in all our homes with clean heat technologies powered by net zero energy sources (e.g. heat pumps power by a decarbonised electricity grid).
A final strategic decision will be made by 2026 on the ‘endgame 2050 scenario’ that we will pursue for decarbonised housing, following the results of trials to use hydrogen for heating homes.
However, the Heat and buildings strategy emphasises that we have near term carbon emission and fuel poverty targets to meet as a nation. The government are seeking to reduce carbon emissions by 2035 in buildings by 47-62%. To do this, the Heat and buildings strategy emphasises the need to focus on ‘no or low-regrets activity’ now. This means bringing all homes up to an EPC C certified standard with fabric insulation measures by 2035 and beginning to rollout heat pumps and heat networks where they are the obvious solution. The government is planning to prioritise the decarbonisation of new build homes and off-gas grid homes. They will also empower local authorities to mandate homes in particular urban areas are connected to heat networks.
The primary funding stream to support housing associations to decarbonise will be the £800m from the second wave of the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund over financial years 2022/23 to 2024/25. This is a portion of the £3.8bn for the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund promised in the Conservative Party Manifesto. The government plan to consult on regulations to enforce social homes reaching EPC C, probably by 2030.
Much of the Heat and buildings strategy is dedicated to the government’s plans to boost skills and supply chains and bring down costs for retrofit and clean heat production, installation and maintenance. They aim to bring down the cost of heat pumps so they are comparable with boilers by 2030. The government also plans to shift the levies that currently account for about 25% of an electricity bill onto gas to make heat pumps more affordable to run. They will consult on this soon.