Leaders debate: Net zero key facts and comment

The context on climate and energy for the first leadership debate in the run up to the election.

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By George Smeeton


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Commenting on the ITV general election leaders’ debate, Alasdair Johnstone at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said:

"The debate was just a little confused. What is clear is that the UK's over-reliance on gas has led to record energy bills, and they are set to rise again later this year. [1,2] More British renewables would reduce price volatility and investing in insulating homes so they waste less energy will bring down bills permanently."

On climate targets

The Climate Change Committee said that, on recent roll backs of net zero policies: "The cancellation of some net zero measures is likely to increase both energy bills and motoring costs for households – households who are also facing increasing impacts from climate change. Electric vehicles will be significantly cheaper than petrol and diesel vehicles to own and operate over their lifetimes, so any undermining of their roll-out will ultimately increase costs. The cancellation of regulations on the private-rented sector will lead to higher household energy bills" [3]

On heating

Both parties are committed to the Clean Heat Market Mechanism which increases the proportion of heating systems that companies sell that are heat pumps. This does not force people to ‘rip out’ their gas boilers. The scheme has currently not been scrapped, but has been delayed by a year. [4,5]

On the gas boiler phase out

There is a Government target that after 2035 if your boiler breaks, sales of new gas boilers would be phased-out, which was mentioned by the Prime Minister in his Sep 2023 net zero speech: "You’ll only ever have to make the switch when you’re replacing your boiler anyway, and even then, not until 2035.” [6]

On heat pump costs

In 2023, the average installation cost of an air source heat pump in the UK was £12,368, according to MCS data. [7] However, the UK government offers subsidies for heat pumps of £7,500 per installation under the Boiler Upgrade Scheme. Some companies like Octopus now offer heat pumps for less than £3,000 after the grant, a cost similar to a new gas boiler. [8]

On insulation/energy efficiency

There is no obligation on homeowners to improve the insulation of their home. There are Government schemes that support some households to do so such as the Energy Company Obligation. [9] The Prime Minister in his Sep 2023 net zero speech cancelled a policy to force landlords to improve the efficiency of their properties. This would have brought down energy bills for renters. [10]