Clean Air Strategy

Defra – 22 May 2018

The government published its Clean Air Strategy on 22 May 2018.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove said that the government is following its July 2017 proposals up by publishing its Clean Air Strategy to look at ‘more than just transport’.

He said: “Air quality has improved significantly since 2010 but sixty years on from the historic Clean Air Act a clear truth remains – air pollution is making people ill, shortening lives and damaging our economy and environment".

“This is why today we are launching this clean air strategy, backed up with new primary legislation. It sets out the comprehensive action required across all parts of government to improve air quality".

“Today’s plan sets out how we will work with local authorities to tackle the effects of roadside pollution caused by dirty diesels, in particular nitrogen dioxide".

“This is one element of the government’s £3 billion programme to clean up the air and reduce vehicle emissions".

The Clean Air Strategy covers five major pollutants:

  • sulphur dioxide – SO2
  • nitrogen oxides – NOx
  • volatile organic compounds – VOC
  • particulates – PM2.5
  • ammonia – NH3

Defra estimates that the Clean Air Strategy will reduce the costs of air pollution to society by an estimated £1 billion every year by 2020, rising to £2.5 billion every year from 2030. However, the Clean Air Strategy does not detail how this will be done. The current cost of air pollution is £20 billion every year, so a saving of £1 billion would only amount to a 5% reduction.

The Clean Air Strategy does link wood burning to poor urban air quality and it is expected that the forthcoming consultation will propose ending the RHI for new biomass installations in urban areas where on-grid gas is available.

ICAX provides Clean Heating now – with no emissions of NO2, SO2, CO2 or any other kind of gas or soot.

Urban Air Quality

A variety of air pollutants have harmful effects on human health and the environment. In most areas of Europe, these pollutants are principally the products of:

  • incomplete combustion from burning fuels for space heating
  • power generation
  • motor vehicle traffic.

All but two of London's boroughs are exceeding EU limits for nitrogen dioxide, a toxic gas linked to respiratory problems. Over 50 locations in London exceed the EU legal limits for nitrogen dioxide by two and a half times.

According to the latest figures available from the OECD, premature deaths and ill health caused by air pollution cost the UK economy an estimated $86bn (£56bn) in 2010.

Urban Air pollution can be reduced by using ground source energy

There are alternatives to the three principal causes of air pollution:

  • combustion for space heating can be replaced by all electric heating using interseasonal heat transfer and Seasonal Thermal Energy Storage
  • power generation from burning fossil fuels can be replaced by power generation from solar, wind and nuclear
  • motor vehicles driven by fossil fuels can be replaced by electric vehicles.

Most forms of space heating are based on combustion of gas, oil, coal or biomass: all forms of combustion emit gases including nitrous oxides, sulfur oxides and soot. The alternative to combustion for heating is to use direct electic heating – which incurs a high running cost – or heat transfer using heat pumps.

Air source heat pumps can yield 2.5 to 3 kW of heat for each kW of electricity used.

Ground source heat pumps can yield 3.5 to 4 kW of heat for each kW of electricity used in a well designed installation, or more when the system is designed to store heat in the ground in summer (either through heat collection from solar thermal panels, or as the by-product of providing cooling.

Alternatives to low carbon heating

It has been suggested that piping hydrogen through the national gas grid would be an alternative to burning natural gas for low carbon heating. While burning hydrogen would provide low carbon heating (if the technical and economic costs of doing so could be met) this would not contribute to a clean air strategy because burning hydrogen in air emits up to six times the NO2 of burning natural gas in air.


If you believe the government should reduce taxes on electricity to allow people to install heat pumps, then please sign the Heat Pump Petition and please encourage others to do so too.


See the full Clean Air Strategy consultation.


See interseasonal heat transfer.


See Ground Source Heating       See Ground Source Cooling    See Ground Source Energy