“The UK also lacks the manufacturing capacity to switch to heat pumps for new builds. Current housing new builds is running at an annual completion level of 177,980 units, but there is only one UK manufacturer of Air Sourced Heat Pumps, Mitsubishi in Scotland, with a capacity of 3,000 units per year. Almost all gas boilers fitted in the UK are built here, so we would be closing a successful UK manufacturing sector to import an inferior overseas product.”
The figures stated are alarming but when we approached Max Halliwell, vice chairman for the UK’s Heat Pump Association and communications manager at Mitsubishi Electric Residential Heating for comment, he was baffled:
“I don’t know where these figures come from but they are totally inaccurate. To start with the number of heat pumps currently entering the UK market is approximately 35,000 p.a, of which Mitsubishi Electric, who manufacture in Scotland, is the leading manufacturer. Secondly, to state that Mitsubishi Electric’s ‘capacity’ is 3,000 units per year is false. Mitsubishi Electric’s plant in Livingston Scotland currently manufactures hundreds of thousands of both air-to-water and air-to-air heat pumps per year which we both sell in the UK and export across Europe. Additionally, production lines can be adapted to allow for changes in product demand. Furthermore, Mitsubishi Electric also has large manufacturing in Japan which can supplement any demand.”
Halliwell also quoted findings from the recent Heat Pump Association publication ‘Delivering Net Zero: A roadmap for the role of heat pumps’, which states that, to keep to the CCC roadmap for the delivery of heat pumps, the industry needs to deliver approx. 70,000 heat pumps to the UK market in 2021/2. A recent survey of the membership of the major manufacturing Heat Pump Association members showed a forecast of 67,000 heat pumps being produced for the UK this year.
As for the statement that overseas products are inherently inferior, we asked Chris Higgs, managing director of Heat Pump distributor ‘Freedom Heat Pumps’ who has worked with heat pumps from a range of worldwide manufacturers for over a decade:
“To say that all heat pumps produced overseas are inherently inferior is nonsense. We currently work with household names such as Samsung and Hitachi as well as lesser-known brands such as Midea. In each case, we are judging the products on the materials and build quality and, in my experience, that can never be determined by where it comes from.”
Having recently been appointed vice-chairman of the HPA, Mr Halliwell was also keen to point out that the future, as he sees it, lies in a collaborative approach:
“Like many others in the industry, I see the success of decarbonising heating coming from a blend of technologies working together, rather than a ‘winner takes all’ scenario. Whilst I appreciate that the Gas Users Organisation have a vested interest in a future that continues to utilise their network, I don’t think putting out misleading information that undermines heat pumps is the best way to achieve this.”