< Features | 29.06.2017 |

Fresh approach

Fresh approach

Tackling air quality is likely to become a major focus for government, which could create opportunities for installers who are able to advise customers on reducing emissions.

There are many harmful pollutants that contribute to poor levels of air quality. These affect not only the environment but the people who live within it too.

Diesel cars are, without question, the biggest pollutant. But zoom into central London and only five per cent of nitrogen oxides come from private diesel vehicles. The main culprit is often gas for heating homes and offices, which accounts for 38 per cent of emissions.

Improving air quality in towns and cities is a goal of local and national governments. This is being targeted through various regulations and programmes in a bid to tackle the energy trilemma of affordability, the security of supply and the need to reduce its environmental impact. Measures to address this include the Clean Air Act, the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme and the new energy efficiency bill, which will come into effect in April 2018.

In addition, London Mayor Sadiq Khan has introduced charging on diesel vehicles, raising the question of whether boilers will be the next target.


Steps are being taken at an international and regional level; however, there is no single cohesive plan. The Climate Change Act commits the government to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80 per cent by 2050, against 1990 levels. The UK government is currently in consultation on a revised plan to quickly reduce levels of nitrogen dioxide around roads because this is seen as the most immediate air quality challenge.

The Construction 2025 report was published under the Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government of  2010-2015 to reduce emissions and energy consumption in new buildings. However, after the general election in June 2017, this may lose impact.

‘London Mayor Sadiq Khan has introduced charging on diesel vehicles, raising the question of whether boilers will be the next target’

In London, the mayor has made air quality one of his top priorities since he came to office in 2016. A range of policies is planned to improve air quality, including an Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), meaning that older, more polluting vehicles have to pay a charge to drive into central London. In addition, a new diesel scrappage scheme is in discussion, which could see a major effort to remove older diesel vehicles from the UK’s roads.

In addition, £2.6 million was made available for Londoners to replace older, high-emission boilers with new, energy-efficient ones. The London Boiler Scrappage Scheme has now closed as all funding has been allocated, although new plans are expected.

Smart meters are a new generation of gas and electricity meters being rolled out to every home and microbusiness in England, Scotland and Wales. This represents the biggest upgrade to the UK’s energy infrastructure in a generation, giving customers accurate, real-time data about their energy usage and spend.

While this isn’t a direct measure to reduce UK emissions, it represents a move to improve people’s consciousness about becoming more energy efficient, impacting overall usage and, as a result, emissions.


  • Air pollution is a combination of nitric oxide (NO) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) gases which contribute to the formation of smog and acid rain. It can cause both short- and long-term effects on health and has been strongly linked with emphysema, bronchitis and heart disease
  • A survey by the Clean Air Act found that 65 per cent of the British public are concerned about pollution in the air that they breathe. And rightly so, as poor air quality is linked to more than 40,000 premature deaths in the UK every year. Government records reveal that 40 per cent of the 169 council areas in England breached air quality guidelines last year
  • While the majority of emissions are caused by burning coal, the use of gas has increased at an alarming rate. Almost 40 per cent of emissions are now produced from gas for heating residential and commercial buildings


Common sense suggests that a reduction in emissions and more stringent controls to improve air quality may have an effect on the heating and plumbing industry and gas installers.

There is an overall need to improve energy efficiency within residential and commercial properties and to look for lower impact sources of power for heating and cooling. With change comes opportunity and there are a number of things you can do to stay ahead of the game.

To meet the government’s plan to reduce current and future gas emissions by 2025, it is important to start thinking of alternative solutions to this growing problem. Taking action now can help you and your customers prepare for future changes.

65,000: The number of installations that have been carried out under the RHI


Insulating homes so they don’t burn as much gas prevents pollution, saves cash and reduces carbon emissions in the long term. The Energy Saving Trust offers advice on cavity wall insulation, insulating pipes, tanks and radiators as well as advice for floorboards, solid walls and draught-proofing.


There are multiple sources of renewable energy, including solar power and solar water heating systems, solar photovoltaic systems, wind power, biomass, ground source and air source heat pumps, and micro combined heat and power (CHP). Educating yourself and customers of the long-term benefits of renewable energy is essential.


The domestic and non-domestic RHI schemes were introduced by the government in 2014 and 2011 respectively to help households and businesses to move away from conventional heating technologies to renewable, low-carbon alternatives. Over 65,000 renewable heat installations have been accredited onto the schemes to date.

In December 2016, the government set out its intention to continue its financial commitment to the scheme until 2020-21, and will roll out proposed changes this
spring to provide the level of certainty needed for consumers and industry to invest in renewable heating, and for the market to transition towards being sustainable without government support in future. Watch this space.


The government initiative to install smart meters offers an opportunity to educate customers and talk to them about ways they can make improvements in their homes from the readings provided.

Smart meter installers are prevented from selling to customers during installation, so they can only talk to the customer about how to use the smart meter and give advice on important safety measures. As a result, customers are often left with insufficient information about how to make improvements to energy usage. This is an opportunity for a well-informed installer to make an impact.

For advice and guidance on the latest in energy efficiency, visit ofgem.gov.uk/environmental-programmes or speak to the team at your local Plumb Center


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