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A significant landmark
The UK is aiming for a green economy and whilst there are many factors that will determine if and when we get there, a significant landmark was recently reached which suggests we are heading in the right direction. Taking into consideration the grants available, the cost of installing a heat pump is now comparable to that of a gas boiler – we may have reached the Model T moment. At the turn of the 20th century the world operated at 8 miles an hour – the speed which horses could maintain for the working day. Henry Ford believed the time had come to speed things up and that every household should own one of his Model T cars but in 1909 a new Model T cost $850 – about $25,000 today – which was out of reach of most people and only 11 a month were being built. Ford opened one of the world’s first assembly production lines reducing the time it took to build a chassis from 12 hours to just 93minutes. This included using only one shade of paint to speed up drying times and led to Ford’s famous quote about customers being allowed to choose any colour “as long as it was black.” By 1924 the cost of a car had fallen to $260, a price workers on that assembly line could afford. By 1927 over 15 million Model Ts had been sold. Other important factors propelling the global switch from horse to motor included public sector support. In New York a pivotal and poignant moment came in 1912 when the horse drawn fire cart left the East Side station for the last time to be replaced by a motorised fire engine. In London by the end of the first world war there were more motorised taxis and buses than horse drawn. By 1930 the transition of the industrialised world to a motor-based economy was more or less complete. Within 20 years the horse that had ruled for centuries had effectively been put out to grass. Back to the present and the recognition by Government that to reach its goal of a carbon neutral country by 2050 homes and offices, factories and shops need to move from fossil fuel to green energy. In particular homes need to switch from gas boilers to air or ground source heat pumps. Recently Barclays has joined other lenders to offer incentives for mortgage holders to go green, in their case £2,000 towards the cost. This can be added on to the £5,000 grant being offered by the Government for homes converting to air source heat pumps – or £6,000 for ground source. Various analysts have now shown that this means the cost of installing some heat pumps is comparable or even cheaper than a gas boiler. Of course, this doesn’t mean householders will convert overnight – why would you when the gas boiler still works fine, and you’d have to pay upfront costs? But what it does mean is that the price of installing in new builds is now comparable and when your existing gas boiler needs replacing, consumers can make the green choice knowing it’s not going to cost them thousands of pounds more to move from the dark age. The Government’s Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme will see £1.425bn worth of grants made available between now and 2025 to enable town halls, leisure centres, schools, hospitals and other public buildings to convert, with the added bonus that green power is not only better for the environment, it should also be cheaper than fossil fuels. Much more still needs to be done including providing further support to low income families looking to switch and in training enough engineers to safely replace gas boilers with heat pumps. However, there are now far more options and grants available for people looking to make the switch to zero carbon power. As Henry Ford might say, you can choose any as long as it’s green.

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