MINISTERS were warned last night not to push ahead with plans to hike gas prices for millions to hit Boris Johnson’s green goals.
Under blueprints to encourage Brits to ditch their dirty boilers, the price of gas is set to be inflated as green charges are taken off electricity and slapped on there instead.
The Government wants it to be cost-neutral but experts say it will send energy bills rocketing by £65 a year for the poorest Brits who don’t swap.
It comes as new polling shows four in ten voters would be less likely to back a Government which increased the price of gas to encourage people to switch over, as the row over how to hit the Net Zero by 2050 target grows.
Last night top wonks warned that the 21 million households using gas at the moment would be heavily penalised and demanded the Treasury cough up more incentive cash instead of getting Brits to fork out.
MPs heard from experts that ripping out boilers had the potential to cause “huge disruption” and may mean Brits have to pay up for unexpected costs like rewiring.
Ed Dodman, Director Of Regulatory Affairs at Ombudsman Services, warned: “We would be concerned that the principle to ‘move the deck chairs’ would impose the costs on the people who don’t decide to do this for whatever reason.”
And Matthew Copeland from National Energy Action told the BEIS select committee: “It’s really important that people living with your policy don’t hate this stuff, and that it’s grant funded as much as possible.”
He recommended ministers slash current levies and use taxes to plug the gap – with low-income Brits getting an opt-out.
Experts noted research which found that a simple swap of the levies from electricity to gas would have a “significant impact” on energy bills – raising them on average by £65 a year for poorer families.
It’s understood that any switch of the levies wouldn’t be introduced for at least another decade to give millions of households a chance to make a green swap.
However, Tories in Red Wall seats packed with poorer Brits fear a backlash over the upcoming heating and homes strategy, which aims to set out how to make the nation’s buildings go green.
Plans from the Business Department to help make the switch affordable include huge grants of £4,000 for people to rip out their gas boilers and replace it with a heat pump, but the prices are still eye-wateringly high.
Gas boilers make up a sixth of the UK’s carbon emissions and millions of them have to be binned to meet the target to get to net zero by 2050.
Mike Foster, Chief Executive of the Energy and Utilities Alliance, says a move to increase levies on gas would be a kick in the teeth of hard-pressed consumers.
He raged: “The public supports efforts to deal with the climate crisis but not at the expense of plunging more people into fuel poverty.
“We have to deal with the climate emergency, but the public wants a thought-through strategy not a knee-jerk tweaking of gas prices that will impact the poorest in society and do nothing to encourage the uptake of low carbon heating technologies.”
Stephen Knight, Director at the Heat Trust, added: “Consumers need to be supported through these kinds of changes, and feel informed and protected.”
A BEIS spokesperson said last night: “At every step on the path to Net Zero, we are putting affordability and fairness at the heart of our reforms.
“We will continue to provide support to lower income households and the vulnerable to make homes greener to cut energy bills.
“More detail on our approach will be provided in the upcoming Heat and Buildings Strategy.”
Meanwhile, ministers today announced plans to ban halogen light bulbs from this September – with fluorescent ones to follow in 2023.
The shift will mean 1.2million tonnes of carbon is saved from being pumped into the atmosphere every year – the equivalent of removing half a million cars from the roads.
LED lights are set to save Brits cash as they last five times longer than traditional halogen lightbulbs and produce the same amount of light – but use up to 80 per cent less power.
New labels will be slapped on bulbs so consumers can tell whether they are eco-friendly or not, too.