Should Government Phase Out Mains Gas?

New legislation for eco-friendly homes is well-meaning but misguided, says Mike Hardwick
Build It expert Mike Hardwick
by Mike Hardwick
15th May 2019

Does anyone remember the Code for Sustainable Homes? It’s now been subsumed into Building Regulations, but one bit of it sticks in my mind.

It stated that by 2016, all new properties built would be at code level 6, meaning zero carbon.

Quite a laudable aspiration, loaded with green virtue signalling and a nice neat soundbite that tripped off the tongues of politicians, but what did it actually mean?

That all new dwellings would be powered by renewables and unable to use mains electricity? That no mains gas could be used?

How about the JCB digging out all of the foundations or the vehicles that brought the materials on site – would the carbon generated by their nasty dirty diesel engines count?

I said I would eat my old RAF service dress hat if this ever came to pass. Sure enough, when people realised the absurdity of this, the whole thing was quietly dropped and my hat survived.

Every now and again, another announcement arrives which makes you question the sanity of our lords and masters.

Now, woodburning stoves are now being branded as evil because of the particulates emitted when burning unseasoned wood.

Read more: Is your woodburning stove eco-friendly?

This is despite them enjoying a massive surge in popularity because of their green credentials. We have a woodburner and it is among the best things in our house, so why the sudden vilification?

I point the finger at urbanites who claim the main cause of particulates is from using damp unseasoned wood bought from petrol stations and the like.

I’ve never bought one of these bags and never would because it’s an expensive way of buying bad fuel.

I buy a truckload of seasoned timber in the spring and store it undercover ready for use in winter. It costs about 2p per kWh and burns hot and clean, so particulates are few and far between. In short, it’s an eco-friendly heating option.

However, we are in danger of starting again with another round of absurdity. Mains gas is about to be side-lined as an option for cooking and heating in new homes from 2025.

Apparently, we all need heat pumps and induction hobs instead. This reliance on electricity, including for cars in the future, makes me wonder what happens if the National Grid can’t keep up.

Mains gas is popular and it works. One cubic metre of gas pushed into a pipe comes out exactly the same at the other end; there is no transmission loss (something which affects mains electricity), which means no wastage.

Read more: Renewable Energy Myths Debunked

It is relatively low in carbon, costs a third of the price of electricity and remains the heating system of choice for the vast majority of UK homes.

There’s nothing wrong with installing heat pumps, but outlawing fitting gas boilers and hobs in new homes from 2025 is going to generate such a backlash from retailers, repairers, manufacturers and consumers that I predict there will ultimately be a rethink.

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