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Faculty-system reform blows cold air on old-style boilers

21 January 2022


THE installation of new boilers that run on fossil fuels could require a faculty under a shake-up of the faculty system designed to help the Church to meet its ambition to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2030.

The Faculty Jurisdiction (Amendment) Rules 2022, amending the Faculty Jurisdiction Rules 2015, are set to be debated by the General Synod next month. They give effect to recommendations made by the net-zero-carbon faculty working group, which was set up after the Synod’s vote two years ago calling upon all parts of the Church to achieve year-on-year reductions in carbon emissions with a view to being net zero by 2030 (News, 14 February 2020). The group has consulted Diocesan Advisory Committee (DAC) secretaries and members of the Church Buildings Council.

Its recommendations aim to make the permissions route “more straightforward for proposals that are most likely to reduce carbon”, and to “increase the strength of the case needed for a parish that has a proposal that will commit to producing additional carbon well after 2030”.

The new rules would come into force on 1 July. New net-zero guidance will also be issued by the Church Buildings Council, which will have a “critical role in the operation of the faculty system”, a guidance papers says. Under the new rules, people applying for faculties would have to explain how they have had “due regard” to the guidance.

“Let’s put our hands together . . . and rub in an effort to keep warm until the new heat pump is installed”

The existing rules include two lists, A and B, setting out matters that can generally be undertaken without a faculty. In the case of those in List B, an archdeacon must give written permission. The new rules make additions to the lists. Works added to List A include “provision for draught proofing and external door or window” and electric vehicle charging points (where the church is not listed). Included in List B are solar panels (provided the church or church hall is not listed or in a conservation area) and electric pew heaters (made on or after 1850).

When it comes to boilers, the new rules permit the replacement, without a faculty, of a boiler in the same location using the existing fuel supply “if it is a non-fossil fuel supply” or entails switching to a non-fossil fuel. But the provision for a “like for like” replacement of a boiler that uses a fossil fuel has been removed: such works will now require a faculty. The replacement of an oil tank would also require a faculty.

In October, the Government announced a new target for all new heating systems installed in UK homes by 2035 to either use low-carbon technologies, such as electric heat pumps, or support new technologies, such as hydrogen-ready boilers. Its £450-million three-year “boiler-upgrade scheme” offers grants to bring the cost of installing a heat pump to roughly the same level as a traditional gas boiler.

In 2020, the Government announced that the end of the sale of new petrol and diesel cars in the UK by 2030, and pledged £1.3 billion to accelerate the roll-out of charge-points for electric vehicles across England.

On Monday, the diocese of London reported that net annual carbon emissions from fuel and power use in its churches and church halls in 2020 had fallen by 31.3 per cent since 2005 (the first year the total was measured). The calculation included compensation for Covid lockdowns. The result forms part of the national C of E’s Energy Footprint Tool (News, 3 September 2020), which assigns each church a band from A++ (top energy efficiency) to G (potential for improvement). In London, six per cent scored A or better, 27 per cent were allocated to bands B to D and 67 per cent were rated E to G.

In November, it was reported that only 25 churches across the Church of England had reached Net Zero (News, 21 November 2020).


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