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Ban gas boilers by 2025 for net zero but how will we heat our homes?

There should be a total ban on new fossil fuel boilers from 2025 if the global target of net zero emissions by 2050 is to be met, a new report has said. 

Sales of new petrol and diesel cars around the world should also end by 2035, and there should be a total ban on investment in new coal mines, oil and gas wells, according to a report by the International Energy Agency.

The agency, which advises countries around the world on clean energy, said there was a ‘narrow but achievable’ pathway for reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 – but only if immediate action was taken. 

There should be a total ban on investment in new coal mines, oil and gas wells, new report says

It also recommended a four-fold increase in the use of solar and wind power, which reached a record level last year.  

In addition, the IEA said public charging points for electric cars should be increased from around one million worldwide today to 40million by 2030.

Overall, the agency set out 400 steps to transform how energy is produced, transported and used.

Several countries, including the United States and the European Union, have pledged to achieve net zero emissions – meaning only as much planet-warming gas is released into the atmosphere as can be absorbed – by the mid-century under the Paris climate agreement. 

Best alternatives to gas boilers 

Currently, heating accounts for 20 per cent of UK emissions according to the National Grid, meaning gas boilers contribute significantly to our carbon footprint.

There are now multiple alternatives to gas boilers in the home for those looking to make their house more environmentally friendly. 

1) Ground source heat pumps: Ground source heat pumps use pipes that are buried in the garden to extract heat from the ground.

This heat can then be used to heat radiators, under-floor or warm air heating systems and hot water in the home.

Installation costs around £14,000 to £19,000, and running costs will depend on a number of factors including the size of the home and how well insulated it is.

2) Air source heat pumps: Air source heat pumps absorb heat from the air outside to heat your home and hot water. They can still extract heat when air temperatures are as low as -15°C.

The pumps can cut carbon emissions by up to 23.36 tonnes over 10 years, according to data from EDF – the equivalent of 30 return flights between Heathrow and Madrid, 

A typical three bed household could save £2,755 over 10 years by using this system rather than a traditional boiler.

3) Solar panels: Solar photovoltaic panels generate renewable electricity by converting the sun’s energy into electricity. They are an effective measure that will cut electricity bills and your carbon footprint.

There are multiple options available, from panels that can be fitted on to a sloping south-facing or flat roof, to ground-standing panels or solar tiles.

When considering whether solar photovoltaic panels are suitable for your home, you will need to ask yourself if you have enough space and check with your local authority whether there are any limits or restrictions.

4) Solar water heating: Solar water heating systems, or solar thermal systems, use free heat from the sun to warm domestic hot water.

A conventional boiler or immersion heater can be used to make the water hotter, or to provide hot water when solar energy is unavailable.

It works by circulating a liquid through a panel on a roof, or alternatively a wall or some kind of ground-mounted system.  

Find out more about the alternatives to gas boilers here.  

Many of these countries will meet for the COP26 in Glasgow this November, where they will attempt to agree on the measures needed to put the Paris agreement into practice. 

However, the IEA said that climate pledges by governments to date would fall short of what was required to bring global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions to net zero by 2050, and give the world an even chance of limiting the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees celsius.

The IEA’s executive director, Fatih Birol, said that meeting this challenge would create millions of new jobs and boost economic growth worldwide.

He said: ‘The scale and speed of the efforts demanded by this critical and formidable goal – our best chance of tackling climate change and limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees celsius – make this perhaps the greatest challenge humankind has ever faced.

‘We have to ensure that developing economies receive the financing and technological know-how they need to build out their energy systems to meet the needs of their expanding populations and economies in a sustainable way.’

The IEA’s pathway calls for enough new solar panels to produce 630 gigawatts of energy by 2030, and enough wind power generators to reach 390 gigawatts. 

Together, this would mean producing four times the record level of solar and wind energy that was seen in 2020. 

For solar panels, it would mean installing the equivalent of the world’s current largest solar park almost every single day. 

The IEA anticipates that, by 2050, the energy world will look completely different with global demand around 8 per cent smaller than today.

However, it will be serving an economy more than twice as big and a population of two billion more people.

The IEA believes that by 2050 almost 90 per cent of electricity generation will come from renewable sources, with wind and solar panels accounting for almost 70 per cent. Most of the remainder will come from nuclear power, it said.

The sale of new non-electric cars around the world should end by 2035, the IEA has said

The sale of new non-electric cars around the world should end by 2035, the IEA has said

It also predicts that solar will be the world’s single largest source of total energy supply, with fossil fuels falling from almost four-fifths of total energy supply today to slightly more than one-fifth.

Fossil fuels that remain, it believes, will be used in goods where the carbon is embodied in the product such as plastics; in facilities fitted with carbon capture; and in sectors where low-emission technology options are scarce. 

Changes will require huge investment 

The report’s proposals will require major investment from all countries and co-operation on a universal scale.

Jonathan Parr, investment manager of the Triple Point Energy Efficiency Infrastructure Company, said: ‘The transition to a net-zero economy is going to require huge investment in energy efficiency if we are to meet the narrow pathway that the IEA has outlined today. 

‘Cleaner forms of energy such as wind and solar power are critical, of course, but we also need to be creative in how we use our resources more efficiently to streamline global energy demand.’

Charlie Mullins, boss of Pimlico Plumbers, said that getting the right infrastructure and skills to switch UK homes to renewable energy sources would be a huge challenge. 

‘If we’re going to have any chance of pulling the climate game back in our favour, scientists need to take a look around at the current state of play in UK towns and cities,’ he said. 

‘In reality, hydrogen boilers are only at the prototype stage and the UK has something like 30million homes to heat – that kind of change out doesn’t happen overnight. 

‘Even if the boiler units were available and in the quantities necessary, there are nothing like the number of qualified heating engineers to perform such a radical retooling of the UK’s domestic heating.

‘Next there is the small matter of creating the infrastructure to deliver clean hydrogen gas to 70million Britons. Can you imagine digging up every street in the country to lay new gas lines in the period of three and a half years? Simply not going to happen.

‘An alternative might be electricity generated from green sources. Of course, if we switched all the UK over to electric heating, we’d need to build a load of new power stations, and they seem to take a decade to get off the drawing board, let alone built and up and running.’

‘If the IEA want to be taken seriously they need to come up with some sensible solutions and timeframes.’

Birol described the pathway towards net zero energy as ‘narrow but still achievable.’

Staying on it will require immediate and large-scale deployment of all available clean and efficient energy technologies. 

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