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Sunday, December 5, 2021

Add costs of heat pumps to mortgages to hit net zero, suggests infrastructure tsar

With its solar panels, high-tech insulation and air source heat pump, the low-carbon “Z Home” at Salford University paints a rosy picture of a green future.

The project, recently unveiled by businesses and academics, is powered by a plethora of cutting-edge technologies, from heated skirting boards to plaster that helps filter air and showers and taps that cut water usage.

There is just one problem. While it offers a model for new developments, the building has strikingly little in common with the millions of hodge-podge, poorly insulated homes that make up the bulk of Britain’s housing stock.

Many of these old properties are so draughty that they may not be suitable for eco-friendly heat pumps, the Government’s preferred replacement for gas-fired boilers, without modifications.

There are also worries about the current £10,000 price tag of heat pumps, which ministers have vowed to drive lower.

To help meet the ambitious targets, the Government has engaged some of the country’s top brains. 

The National Infrastructure Commission, led by chairman Sir John Armitt, has been tasked by the Treasury with scrutinising the plans and recommending “viable solutions”. 

Crucially, the commission’s brief is not to bring back uncosted fantasies but level-headed, realistic proposals that fit inside a “financial envelope”. 

Sir John, who previously ran Network Rail and oversaw the construction of venues and infrastructure for the London 2012 Olympics, is no stranger to a challenge.

But he believes the switch to zero carbon heating in homes and buildings represents “one of the biggest and most complex” challenges the country has faced “in a very long time”.

“This is something that is going to have an impact, both physically and financially, on all of us as consumers,” Sir John adds. 

“The solution needs to be affordable, comfortable and, most importantly, warm.”

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