For many years, energy fringe meetings at the Conservative Party conference were accompanied by a chorus of muttered ‘no’s and the odd loud ‘tut. They came from someone at the back, quivering with rage, waiting for the moment they could jump up and call angrily for an end to the blight of onshore wind turbines – no matter, really, what the main subject of the meeting was.
Those people (they were everywhere, but it really seemed like just one or two individuals) are not here any more. It’s not clear whether they have accepted their local wind turbines, or shifted their rage to another target.
Either way, it seems there is a window: now would be a good time to make the long-awaited and very sensible move to remove barriers to building and repowering onshore.
You may take my gas boiler …
I wondered whether that rage might have been transferred to Conservative plans to outlaw gas boilers in new-builds – a policy that may not be visible on the horizon, but does reach into the home in the same way as the end to incandescent light bulbs.
Opposition may be tempered by the fact that installing a gas boiler is of little use unless you install a pipe to bring the gas to it, but realism doesn’t necessary play a part when you are drawing that type of ‘line in the sand’.
In fact, responses to the gas boiler issue have been of the ‘get on with it’ variety. Manufacturers are keen to say they have hydrogen-fuelled boilers, heat pumps and other technologies ready (well they would). There was even a certain amount of enthusiasm to tackle the “business opportunity” represented by the 21 million or so boilers currently in service.
It would be hard to say whether consumers are aware yet of the discussions over the future of the gas network, the potential for a switch to hydrogen or even closure. But industry has begun to jump on it. Ovo’s package for its new SSE customers includes replacing gas boilers with heat pumps. Shell has joined with PassiveSystems to offer hybrid boilers. LPG gas suppliers have dropped the ‘petroleum’ from their name and started to think about providing low-carbon gases as Liquid Gas UK.
We are just at the start of this one but it suggests that, as with onshore wind, the time to take some tough decisions is now.