Off Grid and Low Carbon: Decarbonising Homes Off the Gas Grid

By Max Halliwell, Vice-Chairman, HPA

The decarbonisation of our homes is critical if we are to reach our net zero goal, with heating in homes currently responsible for approximately 13-14% of net greenhouse gas emissions[1]. Whilst heating system replacement will be required across all areas of the stock, off gas grid properties are often seen as a priority area for decarbonisation. The next decade will be critical for these homes in particular, with the Clean Growth Strategy setting out the Government’s commitment to phase out high carbon fossil fuel heating installations, in both new and existing off gas grid homes, during the 2020s.

Why Focus on Off Gas Grid Properties?

Over the next ten years, the Government have some key decisions to make regarding the decarbonisation of heat, including the role of electrification and the future of gas networks. The Climate Change Committee (CCC) advise that until such decisions are made, the UK Government can keep their options open by accelerating the deployment of what they consider to be ‘low regret’ options, including the deployment of heat pumps in homes off the gas grid[2].

These homes are largely heated by highly carbon intensive fuels, such as heating oil, LPG and coal and can face higher and more volatile energy prices. Installing heat pumps in these properties now, can allow homeowners to benefit from carbon and fuel bill savings immediately[3]; [4]. Investing in these homes will also have benefits for the wider market; helping to prime industry ahead of the mass uptake of low carbon heat and make deployment easier, as the full switch is made.

How Can Change be Unlocked?

Whilst there are clear benefits to focusing on off gas grid homes as one of the first steps towards decarbonising of our homes, a clear and comprehensive policy framework is required to unlock change in the sector. A range of policy levers will be needed including regulation, fiscal support and incentives, targeted towards different stakeholder groups including consumers, manufacturers, and installers.

Different stakeholders will require different policy support, and it is important that Government communicate effectively with key actors across the supply chain to understand the discrete challenges faced in the transition to net zero heating.

That is why we were pleased to see that recently, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) published research looking at the views of off gas grid installer views on the transition to low carbon heating. Promisingly, almost ¾ (72%) of non-heat pump installers surveyed said they would learn how to install new low carbon technologies if demand for fossil fuel heating systems were to significantly reduce in off gas grid areas.

However, installers indicated that they faced barriers to undergoing formal training. This indicates the importance of a supportive policy framework to enable upskilling and ensure high quality installations. Potential incentives and initiatives to increase the uptake of training for low carbon technologies were assessed and generally, high levels of support were observed (See Figure 1).

Figure 1 – Off Grid Gas Installer Views on Initiatives to Support Upskilling in Low Carbon Heat (unless stated otherwise ‘level of support’ refers to the proportion of respondents who indicated that they were very or fairly supportive) Source: BEIS.

We were pleased to see support for some of the initiatives we proposed in our paper Building the Installer Base for Net Zero Heating[5] and we hope that the Government draws key learnings from this research to develop a clear and comprehensive policy framework that supports all stakeholders in the transition to low carbon heat. We look forward to the publication of the long-awaited Heat and Buildings strategy and hope this will provide such a framework. Whilst decarbonising off gas grid homes could act as a great catalyst for change, retrofitting these properties is just the beginning; and the strategy must look across the whole stock.


[1] ES Catapult. (2020). Decarbonisation of Heat: Why it Needs Innovation.

[2] CCC. (2020). The Sixth Carbon Budget: The UK’s Path to Net Zero.

[3] HPA. (2019). Delivering Net Zero: A Roadmap for the Role of Heat Pumps.

[4] Regen. (2019). Pump up the Volume – Making a Case for Heat Pumps in Domestic Properties.

[5] HPA. (2020). Building the Installer Base for Net Zero Heating.