Darren McMahon, Marketing Director at Viessmann, comments on the report.
The Committee on Climate Change has published a comprehensive report setting out the scale of the challenge faced in terms of decarbonising our building stock. Greenhouse gas emission reductions from UK housing have stalled and we need to act decisively if we are to be successful in deploying at scale low carbon heat technologies such as heat pumps or even hydrogen heating.
However, mass deployment of heat pumps or hydrogen feels like an overstep if we can’t get the simple things right like ensuring gas boiler installation best practice across the market. This is important not only because it delivers heating bill reductions for consumers and cost-effective decarbonisation, it is also necessary to prepare the stock for the widespread roll-out of low carbon heat technology that needs to operate at lower temperatures.
The boiler plus policy, introduced in April 2018, was a big step towards making advanced controls mandatory with boiler installations in the UK market. However, boiler plus did not go all the way and by failing to do so falls short in preparing big parts of the market for further disruption to achieve long term decarbonisation objectives. The main gaps are the following:
1. Boiler plus additional efficiency measures like weather compensation are not mandatory beyond the combi boiler market. That means that the 354,000 heat only/system boilers installed every year in England are not covered by the policy. This is a major oversight as a number of manufacturers already have a weather compensating solution which includes the ability to raise the temperature of DHW to a cylinder, above a level to combat legionella, as well as modulate heating water to lower temperatures.
2. Boiler plus does not cover new build heating system installations. Therefore, the heating systems that are fitted in the 200-250k per annum new build market may be inferior in terms of efficiency than those being retrofitted. This is a major missed opportunity given that new build is the market we need to be going faster and further.
3. Lastly, installation best practice (such as hydraulic balancing) is not addressed properly under boiler plus. Although the boiler plus consultation response, notes that hydraulic balancing is ‘expected practice’ with boiler installations it notes that it is not enforced, unlike in other major EU markets. This has the unintended consequence of confirming to installers that balancing is not mandatory thus reducing this essential practice.
This year will see the 1-year review of boiler plus as well as a consultation on Building Regulations Part L. It is crucial that these gaps are addressed so that everyone can benefit from best practice. If boiler plus measures are extended beyond combis there could be up to 0.335TWh of gas demand reduction in 2020, rising to 5.03 TWh per year in 2034. The UK would also prepare the whole market for the inevitable transition towards more efficient heating systems, operating at lower temperature.
Getting the basics right is important and we should not lose sight of that.