Government Heat Pump target – paving the way to fuel poverty?

The Government’s commendable plan to install 600,000 per year by 2028 has come under fire from both OFTEC and the Gas User Organisation, who have highlighted significant cost disparities between heat pumps and traditional technologies, along with confusion over what constitutes a ‘zero carbon ready’ home. Andrew Newman, technical director of the Gas Users Organisation, explains:
“There are positive commitments in the 10-point plan towards future use of hydrogen as a green gas, and we need more clarity from the Westminster government that hydrogen-ready gas boilers are considered to be a ‘zero carbon ready’ option, as they should be, and therefore permissible in new builds after 2025. Gas central heating is incredibly popular with customers, because it is clean, convenient and relatively cheap. Furthermore, there is a strong correlation that shows that homes that lack a connection to the gas grid are more likely to be in fuel poverty.”

Understandably the Gas User Organisation is keen to embrace hydrogen-ready technology over heat pumps, as the switch from natural gas to hydrogen is relatively straightforward, as recently demonstrated by Baxi and Worcester Bosch with their HyStreet initiative.

However, this news will come as little consolation for owners of the 4 million homes not currently connected to the gas network, as leaders in the off-gas grid heating sector have pointed out. OFTEC CEO, Paul Rose, laid out the figures which highlight the alarming cost implications:

“Heat pumps are an excellent technology, but they are expensive, costing on average £10,900 to install, and need to be fitted in well insulated homes to avoid high running costs and ensure comfort. However, oil heated homes are some of the least energy efficient in the UK, with almost two thirds (65%) in EPC bands E-G, equating to 765,000 properties.

The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) estimates that bringing EPC Band E homes heated by oil up to an acceptable Band C, would cost on average £12,300. For properties in EPC Bands F or G, the cost would be £18,900. This means the total bill to decarbonise all 765,000 properties will be around £19.85 billion – equivalent to an average of almost £26,000 per home – and for some, the figure will be considerably higher.

With hydrogen out of the question for many of these properties, OFTEC, along with 47 member companies, wrote to the Minister of State for BEIS, highlighting their readiness and commitment to introduce a far cheaper, more practical solution in the form of a renewable liquid fuel to replace heating oil. According to OFTEC this is a near ‘drop in’ solution for existing oil heated homes, offering a huge reduction in capital costs.

What’s your take on the government’s heat pump target? Misguided and overly expensive, or a realistic road to net zero?