EU humiliated by Kwasi Kwarteng after Tory minister cast bloc's energy plans in doubt

In 2020 the European Commission said it expected more public transport and buildings to be powered by low-cost renewable electricity such as heat pumps. Indeed, the commission said: “In buildings, electrification is to play a central role in particular, through the roll-out of heat pumps for space heating and cooling.” It was also stated that the commission wanted heat pumps to represent 40 percent of heating solutions in residential housing and 65 percent of heating in commercial buildings by 2030.

The most important barrier to overcome, the commission admitted, is the higher level of taxes applied to electricity compared to heating oil, gas and coal. 

Moreover, CEO’s of major energy groups across Europe said last month that the European electricity grid can handle 50million heat pumps. 

In a letter sent to the European Commission, they also claimed that the switch from boilers to heat pumps would reduce energy consumption in buildings by more than 66 percent, and reduce heating-related CO2 emissions by at least 60 percent.

However, Mr Kwarteng has stated the proposed green alternative to gas heating is inferior to traditional boilers. 

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He told the Telegraph that while gas boilers had been “refined over many years heat pumps are still in their infancy.”

He added: “I don’t think heat pumps are much worse than boilers. 

“All I am saying is that they could be improved if there was more investment.”

Mr Kwarteng is the cabinet minister charged with delivering the Tories’ commitment to reducing net greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050.

“But I would be very reluctant to impose things on people who can’t afford to make the transition.

“We’ve got to make that work for people.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he wants 600,000 heat pumps replacing gas boilers every year by 2028. 

He has however acknowledged that the technology is currently unaffordable for many people at about “ten grand a pop.”

Mr Kwarteng insisted that higher taxes were not inevitable to fund the shift to green technologies.

He said: “We’ve got to incentivise economic activity. 

“You don’t incentivise economic activity, you don’t incentivise investment, you don’t incentivise work, by increasing taxes.”

Last month, a UN scientific report stressed that human activity is changing the climate in unprecedented and irreversible ways.

The report, which was released less than three months before a climate summit in Glasgow known as COP26, was described by UN chief Antonio Guterres as a “code red for humanity”.