With the increased media focus on gas prices, the environmental impact of fossil fuels, advances in hydrogen production, and the growth of the renewables industry, it is easy to believe that the use of natural gas has had its day.
The supply of natural gas is indeed getting scarcer by the year. It’s also indisputable that the use of fossil fuels is having a significant negative impact on our planet. As a result, the cost of gas will continue to rise.
In October 2021, 15 million households saw their energy bills increase by 12%. Worryingly, the price cap is set to rise in April 2022, resulting in further increasing energy bills. (Source: BBC)
So, can gas engineering still be a viable career?
Is This The End Of Gas Heating?
Even given the factors above, natural gas will continue to be a significant fuel source in domestic properties for many years.
The media portrayal of the decline in gas usage gives the impression that by the late 2020s, gas will be all but burnt out. This rumour simply isn’t true.
Air and ground source heat pumps are by far the most talked-about alternative to gas-powered central heating, and with good reason, they are greener and safer to use than natural gas. But over 20 million homes in the UK are still heated by gas boilers. In 2020 alone, 1.7 million gas boilers were installed in the UK.
As a result, we’ll likely see similar figures for 2021. These figures prove that gas boilers are still incredibly popular and will be for years to come.
With the best intentions in the world, even if the government achieves their target of 600,000 heat pump installations each year, that’s only one-third of all heat sources fitted annually. Subsequently, engineers will be needed to install over 1 million new gas-fired heating appliances a year.
Gas Boilers Banned
The ban on gas appliances in new builds will come into force in 2025, and the UK will ban the sale of new gas boilers in 2035.
Suppose we say that with the investment in new technology and the decline in gas usage, the sale of gas boilers will drop to half a million a year by 2035.
That will still lead to 6.5 million boilers being installed until the ban. In which case, 15 million boilers will need servicing each year.
As good as heat pumps are (and they are good), they will not suit every situation. But for those they do, someone needs to fit them. And gas trained heating engineers are best equipped to do just that.
When you look at the rest of Europe, the UK lags far behind in heat pump installations. However, as this changes, gas and heating engineers will need to decommission and replace old appliances.
What About Hydrogen?
The best calculations are that the UK could be entirely hydrogen ready by 2050.
Simply put, if hydrogen replaces natural gas, who will convert the millions of appliances to run on this new gas? Gas engineers, of course. Existing engineers will need to upskill to upgrade or replace appliances and upgrade to supply network to (potentially) some 20 million homes.
So while gas engineering isn’t going anywhere, engineers will need to adapt, embrace new technology, and be a little savvier about system designs – but they will still be in demand for a long time.