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Government Told Heat Pump Sales Need A Massive Jump

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The government has been cautioned that heat pumps remain prohibitively expensive and underrecognized. Despite efforts, only 55,000 heat pumps were sold in the UK in 2022, falling short of targets.

The UK’s spending watchdog emphasised the urgent need for a significant increase in sales. In alignment with climate change goals, the government aims to install 600,000 low-carbon heat pumps annually by 2028.

While the government stated it was facilitating rather than mandating heat pump installations, the National Audit Office (NAO) expressed scepticism about the feasibility of meeting the target by 2028.

The government was encouraged to enhance public awareness of green technology and take steps to lower its costs.

Simon Bittlestone, the director, emphasised to the BBC: “The government faces significant challenges in devising strategies to transition to decarbonized home heating.”

Heating systems in UK households contribute to 18% of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions, exacerbating climate change.

Unlike traditional boilers fueled by gas, heat pumps utilise electricity. With the UK generating more electricity from renewable sources, adopting heat pumps for home heating can significantly reduce emissions.

However, even with the government’s objectives in place, only 55,000 heat pumps were sold in the UK in 2022.

According to the NAO’s report, the primary factors contributing to this low adoption rate include:

  • Limited public awareness regarding the technology.
  • Higher costs compared to gas boilers.
  • Insufficient long-term financial assistance for households.

The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) estimates that air source heat pumps, the predominant type used in households, cost an average of £10,000 more than gas boilers.

However, some energy companies are offering heat pumps for as little as £500 with government grants.

The government informed the BBC about its launch of the Welcome Home to Energy Efficiency campaign, aimed at providing information on heat pumps.

 However, Dr. Richard Hauxwell-Baldwin, research and campaigns manager at the MCS Foundation, emphasised that merely providing information is insufficient. While it’s a crucial initial step, what’s needed is consistent, clear, and certain messaging.

He noted that the government’s indecision on hydrogen as an alternative to heat pumps is causing confusion among gas engineers, leading some to advise homeowners to hold off on heat pump installations.

The NAO also highlighted the government’s wavering stance on hydrogen heating. Last year, it terminated several trials meant to gather more data on the feasibility of this technology.

Representatives from the industry and local authorities expressed to the NAO that this uncertainty hinders investment in heat pumps, which could otherwise contribute to lowering prices for consumers.

The NAO has advised the government to reach a decision on whether hydrogen will be integrated into the UK’s home energy heating system by 2026.

Responding to the report, a spokesperson from the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero highlighted the effectiveness of the Boiler Upgrade Scheme, which provides grants for heat pumps, in assisting families with expenses.

The grant underwent an increase last year, resulting in a nearly 40% surge in applications. Recently, the government announced the removal of the mandatory insulation requirement for grant eligibility.

Izzy Woolgar, director at the Centre for Net Zero, an independent research unit within Octopus Energy, acknowledged the UK’s lag behind Europe in home decarbonization efforts. However, she applauded the government’s decision to eliminate the insulation prerequisite for the grant, suggesting it could significantly facilitate the transition to heat pumps in the UK.

The government recently declared a one-year postponement in enforcing fines for boiler manufacturers failing to meet heat pump sales quotas.

According to Jess Ralston, an energy analyst at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), this delay reflects a pattern of indecision and policy reversals from the government, contributing to setbacks in heat pump deployment.

Ralston criticised the government’s decision, suggesting it primarily favours major boiler manufacturers and prolongs the UK’s dependence on gas.


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