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Miliband vows to scrap 2035 Tory ban on new gas boilers

Ed Miliband raising his hand, speaking at the Labour party annual conference
Ed Miliband, the shadow energy secretary, aims to explore ways to bridge the finance gap for heat pump installations - Eddie Mulholland

Labour will scrap the Tory party’s 2035 target to ban new gas boilers, Ed Miliband has pledged.

In an interview with The Telegraph, the shadow energy secretary said no one will “be forced to rip out their boiler” under Labour’s plans for reaching net zero targets.

Instead, Mr Miliband will focus on financial incentives to encourage more people to install heat pumps.

Home heating accounts for around 14 per cent of the UK’s emissions, with the vast majority of homes using gas boilers, which both parties want to see replaced with heat pumps.

Rishi Sunak said in September last year that most homeowners would “only ever have to make the switch when you’re replacing your boiler anyway, and even then, not until 2035”.

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In contrast, Labour say they are less focused on dates for a ban rather than providing incentives for people to adopt heat pumps.

Mr Miliband said: “On home heating – as we said in our manifesto – no one’s going to be forced to rip out their boiler. We’re absolutely clear about that.

“We haven’t stuck with the Government’s 2035 target when you can’t replace your gas boiler. I know that we’ve got to show that heat pumps are affordable and are going to work for people.”

Mr Miliband said that the decline of the North Sea means the UK must find new ways to generate electricity, warm homes and power industry or risk becoming more dependent on foreign energy imports.

Claire Coutinho, the Energy Secretary, has warned that Labour’s pledge to convert Britain to clean power by 2030 – five years earlier than the Conservatives – risks blackouts and public unrest.

Britain consumes around 75bn cubic metres of gas a year, equivalent to 1,100 cubic metres per person. About a third of that is used to generate electricity and a similar amount for heating homes.

Mr Miliband said heat pumps, which run on electricity, had emerged as the key alternative to gas boilers – and he would seek ways of generating a surge in installations if Labour got into power.

Heat pumps work like a fridge in reverse, drawing energy from the air or the ground before it is compressed to heat water for radiators and taps. They heat up radiators at a slower rate than gas boilers, so work best if left on at a steady temperature. They are most efficient in homes that are well insulated, or with larger radiators, which can increase installation costs significantly.

He added: “I’ll be honest, I think one good thing the current Government did, among a number of bad things, was to increase the heat pump grant to £7,500.”

The Boiler Upgrade Scheme, introduced by Rishi Sunak, provides eligible households with up to £7,500 to cover the cost of installing a new heat pump. The Sunday Telegraph understands one way that Labour could encourage households to install a heat pump is by extending the existing grant to millions more homes.

Mr Miliband – who is standing for re-election in his Doncaster North seat, where he had a majority of just 2,370 in 2019 – said he had installed a heat pump, backed up by batteries, in his own home, but he recognised that many households were hesitant. The cost of a heat pump alone is an average of between £10,000 and £12,000, compared with a gas boiler which typically costs between £2,000 and £3,000.

The current subsidy system has just £450m of funding, covering the cost of only 90,000 homes, but the Climate Change Committee, the Government’s climate watchdog, says 600,000 heat pumps will need to be installed every year by 2028 in order to hit net zero targets.

However, expanding the scheme would be costly to the taxpayer so Mr Miliband said Labour is exploring ways to bridge the finance gap and sharply accelerate heat pump installations, as well as trying to build public confidence in low carbon technologies.

Alongside extending subsidies, Labour plans to back the creation of green mortgages, which could see homes granted more favourable rates for putting in insulation or heat pumps. Other ideas have included changes to stamp duty or council tax to reward householders who install energy saving or emission reduction measures.

Labour has also committed to doubling the current funding for green homes with an extra £6.6bn, including schemes to upgrade insulation in draughty homes, the installation of solar panels and home batteries.

The party will also reintroduce requirements for all landlords to upgrade energy efficiency to at least the level of an Energy Performance Certificate C by 2028, a pledge that was abandoned by the Tory party.

The Conservatives have not yet put forward legislation on the 2035 date, meaning Labour would not have to scrap any existing laws, and the party has not ruled out introducing a ban in the future.

A key vehicle for Mr Miliband’s plans will be Great British Energy which will use £8bn harvested from taxing the UK’s offshore oil and gas industry to invest in green technologies – especially riskier ones such as tidal projects and floating wind.

Labour’s planned windfall tax on oil and gas producers has come under heavy criticism, with Sir Jim Ratcliffe last week saying the proposals will tax the North Sea “out of existence”.

Analysts at Stifel have also suggested that it could raise as much as £2bn less than claimed by Labour, leaving a hole in their finances.

About £3.3bn of the Great British Energy fund will be offered to local communities as loans or grants to support locally-owned power projects such as wind or solar farms. Mr Miliband said: “Our local power plan will work with local communities and local authorities in two different ways.

“First, it will have clean power projects that local communities can get direct benefit from – potentially lowering bills. And the proceeds [profits] will also go back to local communities. The idea is that Great British Energy will invest to give a direct stake to local people.”

Earlier this month Mr Miliband visited a factory for ground source heat pumps in Cornwall, during which he said they were a “crucial technology” on the road to net zero.