The UK’s largest gas supplier has called on the government to introduce a “Retrofit Fund” to convert consumers from gas boilers to hybrid heating systems, using both gas and electricity.
Centrica, owner of British Gas, called for an initial target of 5,000 installations by 2024, followed by a wider rollout in line with the recommendation of the independent Climate Change Committee to deploy 10 million hybrid heating systems by 2035.
Last year, the government indicated that it would phase out conventional gas boilers for home heating by the mid-2030s as part of the decarbonisation effort in the UK’s economy.
While hybrid systems, which combine small capacity gas boilers with air heat pumps, do not currently provide a carbon-free solution, they will help achieve carbon reduction in the short term, Centrica said.
In the long run, hydrogen would replace the natural gas element in a hybrid heating system and enable the system to be a completely carbon-free option, Centrica said.
Hydrogen can be produced in a number of ways, including by splitting water molecules through a process that – when powered by renewable energy sources – is carbon neutral.
In reality, most of the world’s hydrogen is made from natural gas through a process that releases carbon. Centrica calls for the Retrofit Fund to run from 2022 to 2024, with the installations aimed at the least energy-efficient homes on the grid and which are not suitable for a pure heat pump solution.
The company estimates that around 10 million UK households could qualify for a hybrid heating system and said it could bolster the rollout with the help of its engineering staff.
Data collected from the 5,000 homes receiving the upgrade could be used to help the government evaluate how effective hybrid heating systems can be in decarbonising efforts.
If successful, Centrica wants hybrids to be included in clean heat subsidies from 2025 and for the government to commit to 600,000 installations by 2028.
Chris O’Shea, Centrica’s Group Chief Executive, said, “We want to help our customers transition to low-carbon heating in a way that best suits their lifestyle, is affordable and causes the least disruption.
” “A range of technologies are needed for the transition, and hybrid heating systems should be considered one of them.
The introduction of a Retrofit Fund will enable us to develop the Engineer of the Future and the government to test and learn about the important role hybrids can play as a bridge to stronger low-carbon solutions, such as hydrogen, and to reach net zero.
Earlier this month, E3G, Greenpeace and WWF and others asked Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng to avoid the rollout of hydrogen-ready boilers. Doug Parr, policy director at Greenpeace UK, commented: failed after decades of trying. “