Plans to decommission the UK’s gas grid as part of the net zero drive will cost an estimated £2,300 per household, according to a leaked draft of an official report.
And most households will be left to foot this bill through higher energy bills or taxes, a national newspaper claims. This is because energy companies are not obliged to cover the costs – and there is no provision for decommissioning in current government budgets.
The draft National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) report states that the total cost of decommissioning the 176,000-mile network of buried pipes could be around £65bn. The grid could become obsolete under plans to reach net zero carbon emissions. Experts say unused pipes must be removed, or they will decay and risk the potential collapse of roads.
The NIC thinks the gas network could, in theory, be converted to carry hydrogen. However, this would also cost “tens of billions of pounds” – and while hydrogen may be a cleaner option than natural gas, doubts remain about its effectiveness as a mass heating solution.
The costings are reportedly raising concerns among senior conservatives. Former business and energy secretary Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg said the Government’s net zero plans are “stuck in cloud cuckoo land”.
“The Government cannot decommission the gas grid, because it can’t afford to,” said Rees-Mogg. “They have got to look very seriously at whether the legal obligation to reach net zero is realistic.”
Conservative MP Craig Mackinlay, chair of the Net Zero Scrutiny Group, told The Telegraph: “Bit by bit, the true astronomical cost of net zero is being revealed, and it’s far from clear the products we are being forced to switch to are any better than their forebears.”
Mackinlay highlighted the “forced conversion from gas boilers to heat pumps” as a “case in point”. And he said it will “leave the country with a vast network of redundant infrastructure that will take tens of billions of pounds to decommission”.
However, another former business and energy secretary has said that the decommissioning costs are “hypothetical”. Kwasi Kwarteng told the Telegraph “it doesn’t make sense to decommission the whole grid at vast expense” – and that he “cannot see a government doing that”.
“It’s unrealistic to expect that all household heating in this country will be electrified,” added Kwarteng.