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Government urged to subsidise wide-scale electric heating overhaul

Findings from Glen Dimplex Heating & Ventilation have claimed that a failure to incentivise a switch from legacy electric heaters is compounding UK efforts to tackle fuel poverty

The UK government has been criticised for failing to subsidise more efficient electric heating technology that could better tackle fuel poverty rates in the country in findings from manufacturer Glen Dimplex Heating & Ventilation.

A report from the company, which is a major supplier of electrical heating solutions, has concluded that half a million homes in England and Scotland that are reliant on electric heat are classed as fuel poor. However, the technology is excluded from current subsidies offered by government to improve heating efficiency.

Fuel poor homes are defined as properties where 10 per cent of annual income is spent on powering heating systems.

The findings conclude that these fuel poor homes could be “paying over the odds” for their heating due to use of ageing, inefficient electronic storage heaters.

Glen Dimplex Heating & Ventilation has argued that existing incentive schemes provided by government are failing to provide funding that could support upgrades of electronic heating systems with more efficient appliances that could include web-connected smart technologies.

The report therefore calls for government to provide financial support to curb a reliance on older electric heating systems.

“It would reduce excess winter deaths and improve population health and wellbeing, delivering a significant cost saving for the NHS,” said Glen Dimplex Heating & Ventilation’s report.

“It’s clear to see there is both a societal and financial benefit to extending these funding programmes so that electrically heated households can take advantage.”

Chris Stammer, the company’s head of insight, said the report highlighted the potential for more modern heating appliances to allow households to be more energy efficient.

Mr Stammer claimed that the majority of fuel poor, electric heated homes were not logistically or economically able to switch to gas as an alternate form of heating, requiring a new approach for upgrading existing systems.

“Invariably the issue is the cost of installation – very few homeowners in fuel poverty can afford the upfront cost to install a new heating system, whilst private and social housing tenants have no choice but to use the heating system they have been given,” he said.

“Those with gas central heating systems have access to a number of funding programmes designed to facilitate heating upgrades to improve the energy efficiency of the property, but there is not currently enough support for electrically heated homes.”

The present average fuel poverty gap, a figure based on a household’s typical energy bill and the cost value it would need to be to lift residents out of the fuel poor classification is £353, according to Glen Dimplex Heating & Ventilation.

The company’s findings also looked at the potential role for smart electric heating systems such as direct-acting electric panel and high heat retention heaters. This technology is capable of gathering energy during off-peak periods to deliver heating services at any time.

Smart controls that react to changing climate conditions or occupant behaviour are also considered as part of a strategy that Mr Stammer said would deliver cost efficiency and easier to use heating for residents.

“Of course, there are other factors outside of the heating system that can contribute to a household living in fuel poverty. Insulation, glazing and building fabric, for example, can all play a part, especially in older homes,” he added. “The fact remains, however, that too many households are living with outdated or ineffective heating systems in electrically heated homes.”

The government last month published its Clean Growth Strategy that outlined broad options for reducing carbon in the UK’s heating infrastructure, while also improving energy efficiency in buildings to realise aims for improved economic and environmentally sustainability.

The strategy outlined three potential national pathways to meet these aims based on currently available technology. These pathways looked at how electricity, hydrogen or sustainable biomass-based power stations could each exclusively be used to curb carbon emissions at a national level to meet long-term environmental aims up to 2050.

A hypothetical scenario for an improved reliance on electric included the total replacement of gas boilers with electric heating and broader moves to cleaner fuels resulting in an 80% growth in current electric demands from current levels.

However, the Clean Growth Plan noted that authorities were still considering the best approach to improve energy and building efficiency through factors such as heating. It concludes that the best way forward could be a combination of electric, hydrogen or biomass-based technologies for curbing carbon emissions.

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