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Heat pumps in the UK

‘Sunak's delays to heat pump rollout will cost households thousands’
Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod
Senior woman with hot drink trying to keep warm by radiator at home in cost of living energy crisis

Government delays to net zero targets will hold back the development of the heat pump industry, derailing efforts to lower households’ energy bills, new research from a think tank suggests.

The Social Market Foundation (SMF) – a cross-party think tank – has warned Rishi Sunak’s rollback of key net zero initiatives will be bad news for British manufacturers, the development of an adequately skilled home heat workforce and households.

Far from saving money, households will remain at the mercy of supply chain shocks and volatile energy markets, the SMF said.

A huge opportunity

As other countries continue to transition to lower carbon heating, and the UK’s own demand is set to grow with the government targeting 600,000 heat pump installations by 2028, there is a huge opportunity up for grabs, the SMF highlights.

The disruption to supply chains during the pandemic and the volatility of the fuel market due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine have also accelerated the need to move away from the current model for heating our homes.

However, UK heat pump manufacturing – already small and nascent – has suffered a setback from the government rolling back/delaying key net zero initiatives; the phase out of oil boilers has been delayed from 2026 to 2035, the same as gas boilers.

Clarity on heat pump policy

Heat pump bodies are demanding clear commitment from the government to avoid further damage to investor, installer and consumer confidence – and undermining the progress of the growing but fragile heat pump industry.

In addition, the home heat workforce already struggles with skill shortages, an ageing workforce and, crucially, insufficient new entrants.

Domestic manufacturing of heat pumps brings several advantages, particularly in the form of household savings.

Prices should come down as the industry reaches scale, either using automation or limiting imports to parts (rather than whole heat pump units).

The same goes for having a skilled workforce, where innovation in home assessment can reduce the time it takes to establish a quote and therefore the overall cost of installing a heat pump.

Heat pumps and the economy

As well as potentially contributing £5.5bn to the UK economy, domestic manufacturing can lead to job creation and with positive knock-on effects for UK research and development. Beyond this, it could spur innovation such that heat pumps are designed specifically for UK homes.

The savings for households depend on the government acting urgently to support the heat pump manufacturing industry developing the necessary workforce.

’The government’s recent delaying of key net zero initiatives will mean that British households’ energy bills will be determined by Putin’s war or supply chain shocks. It will also mean that the British heat pump industry forgoes a chance to grab the growing global demand for low carbon heating.

‘Unless the government starts investing today in the technology and the workforce needed to realise savings from transitioning to low carbon heating, British consumers, workers and manufacturers will be worse off.’

Researcher at Social Market Foundation

Scaling up heat pump production

The SMF’s interviews with experts revealed that convincing manufacturers to begin heat pump production at scale in the UK is ‘the greatest challenge’, but a range of policy measures could address the barriers to scaling up production.

Heat pumps should be named as a minimum requirement in the Future Homes Standard, so that all homes built from 2025 onwards will definitely have heat pumps.

Policymakers need to improve the business case for heat pumps through energy price restructuring, making heating through electricity a more financially viable option for much of the public.

Fines for non-compliance with the Clean Heat Market Mechanism – which will be placing targets on manufacturers to sell low-carbon heat pumps each year – need to be used to fund installer training or to contribute to the pot for the Boiler Upgrade Scheme.

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