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The business secretary defended the government’s drive to expensive heat pumps, suggesting their cost would go down like iPhones.
Kwasi Kwarteng was questioned about the government’s plan to subsidise low-carbon heat pumps in place of gas boilers for homeowners.
Households will be offered subsidies of £5,000 from next April to help them make the switch.
However, critics point out it will fund just 90,000 pumps over three years and those on lower incomes face huge costs to replace their gas boilers. Currently heat pumps cost an average £10,000 to install and do not necessarily deliver savings on running costs because green levies are higher for electricity than gas.
When it was put to him that many less wealthy people will have to fork out a lot of money to switch their boilers, Kwarteng told BBC Radio 4′s Today programme: “Where I think your assumption is wrong is that as we encourage heat pump manufacturing, of course the unit costs of heat pumps will come down, just as they’ve done or they are coming down in electric vehicles.
“People will have seen that in their own lives, you know a few years ago, with things like iPhones.
“At the beginning they were very very expensive and of course the unit cost – as people, private sector invests – producing these things comes down.
“So I think it’s perfectly reasonable to help people make the transition. But also, I would suggest that the unit costs of heat pumps will come down and people will adopt them in much greater numbers.”
When it was put to him that iPhones are still very expensive and heat pumps will still cost thousands of pounds, Kwarteng replied: “It is a lot of money and it’s also a choice. No one’s saying that we’re imposing heat pumps on anybody.
“Well, no-one’s suggested in the heat and building strategy, the net-zero strategy, no one suggested that there’s some sort of mandatory imposition on the new technology.
“What we’re trying to do is to encourage behaviour. That’s why we’ve got the grants that you’ve mentioned.”
Homeowners will be encouraged to switch to a heat pump or other low-carbon technology when their current boiler needs replacing. The government also aims to ban the installation of new gas boilers by 2035.
An air-source heat pump costs between £6,000 and £18,000, depending on the type installed and the size of a property.