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Going green – a worthy goal, but can we afford it yet?

We have all read the headlines about efforts to save the planet and reduce our carbon footprint and the government is looking at ways that will result in significant changes to the way we live. Domestically, the banning of gas boilers in all new build homes will come into effect from 2025. Replacing a gas boiler like for like will be banned after 2030, but the timescale has still not been decided. At the same time, the internal combustion engine (ICE) is due to be pensioned off by 2035.

The move to reduce emissions is without doubt an essential goal, but what are the alternative sources to heat homes and provide personal transport, and are they viable?

As far as heating options are concerned, replacements for gas boilers depend currently on heat pump technology becoming cost comparable with gas boilers. At the moment, government subsidies would have to be high to level the cost playing field before the gas boiler ban takes effect. The other alternative is to substitute hydrogen for gas as the fuel of choice for boilers, but doubts remain as to the compatibility with existing boiler technology, the ability to produce sufficient supplies, and whether the production of hydrogen would not in itself be the cause of significant pollution.

On the car front manufacturers have stepped up, and the development of battery powered vehicles has accelerated to a point where a strong argument can be made that electric cars already represent a viable case for replacing those powered by petrol and diesel. Yet as it stands, while the range of the new breed of electric vehicles is now quite respectable – c.200/300 miles on a full charge – charging station capacity across the country is still inadequate. Other issues include how those living in flats and busy suburban streets with no off-road parking will be able to recharge their cars without turning pavements into no go zones full of cables. Current costs of electric car purchase make adoption an expensive proposition relative to the cost of an ICE powered vehicle, although cost parity will become more of a reality as the technology becomes mainstream.

Hydrogen, as an alternative to battery power, is currently a long way behind even the existing battery powered infrastructure. But the biggest challenge to large scale battery powered adoption is the National Grid’s capacity to meet the needs of a population wanting to recharge increasingly large numbers of electric vehicles.

Currently it would seem that early adoption of gas boiler alternatives and electric vehicles will continue to be the province of those who can afford to switch early. There is still time for costs to fall and the necessary infrastructure to be put in place but, in the meantime and for many of us, a watch and wait policy would seem to be the best approach.

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