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Changes to the Boiler Upgrade Scheme

The government’s Boiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS) is set to undergo significant changes in light of concerns about its efficiency and to increase the adoption of sustainable heating systems. This article dives deep into the forthcoming modifications and what they might mean for UK homeowners.

Larger grants for homes with oil boilers

Amid the backdrop of ongoing talks regarding a potential oil boiler ban, the government is considering increased grants beyond the present £6,000 to encourage homeowners. This is especially aimed at those in rural areas, to adopt air or ground source heat pumps. The suggestion of the ban met substantial opposition due to the associated costs. The new grants are designed to mitigate these financial burdens.

Making it easier to avail of the scheme

A major impediment to the widespread adoption of the Boiler Upgrade Scheme has been the shortage of certified installers. The consultation into the scheme’s changes aims to resolve this bottleneck, ensuring homeowners have streamlined access to this initiative.

About the boiler upgrade scheme

Introduced in May 2022 with a £450 million budget, the BUS, formerly known as the Clean Heat Grant, bears similarities to the now-defunct Green Homes Grant. It provides grants up to £6,000 for installing ground source heat pumps or certain biomass boilers. It also provides grants up to £5,000 for air source heat pumps. Launched on 1 April 2022, it accepts applications from any eligible low-carbon heating system installed after this date.

New proposals under consideration

The core of these changes lies in introducing regulations for properties with oil boilers to phase out fossil fuel-dependent heating systems. There’s a growing understanding that the cost of heat pumps, though eco-friendly, is substantially higher than traditional fossil fuel alternatives for rural homes. As such, the consultation is looking into varying grant levels based on the property type or existing fuel source. This could see homes with oil heating getting larger grants. The current ceiling is £6,000 and is given to homes with gas boilers. Additional proposed alterations to the BUS encompass:

  • Tweaking Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) requirements.
  • Removing loft or cavity wall insulation prerequisites.
  • Deliberation on including biomass boilers with cooking features.

Why the change?

There has been considerable scrutiny of the government’s proposed oil boiler ban, slated to come into play from 2026. Intending to form part of the Energy Security Bill to be announced later in the year, it has been dubbed an ‘ULEZ’ for rural homeowners by critics. It could impact 6% of UK households, necessitating a shift to alternative heating solutions.

A welcome step for stakeholders

The broader consultation is focused on understanding the nuances of grant requirements. It aims to ensure heat pump costs are balanced, depending on whether a property has gas or oil heating. Stakeholders are also being consulted on the necessity of EPC requirements. However, this could be a deterrent for more homeowners from opting for the Boiler Upgrade Scheme.

The broader vision

Lord Callanan, the minister for Energy Efficiency and Green Finance, accentuated the importance of rapidly augmenting the number of heat pumps in the UK. Such technologies are pivotal in cutting down carbon emissions from heating homes and simultaneously reducing costs for the end-users.

The industry’s reception

The consultation has been met with a positive reception from industry leaders. Jess Ralston from the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit commented on the UK’s lag in comparison to European nations in terms of heat pump installations. Furthermore, experts like Henk van den Berg from Daikin UK have advocated for the inclusion of hybrid heat pumps in the scheme, which they believe can expedite the decarbonisation of existing properties.

In conclusion, these proposed changes to the Boiler Upgrade Scheme reflect the UK government’s commitment to fostering a greener and more sustainable future. The consultation  is open until the 12th October 2023. It will be pivotal in shaping the future direction of sustainable heating solutions in the country.

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