The report states that heat pumps are likely to provide the majority of heat supply in the future, which, says Griff Thomas from GTEC, is a golden opportunity for installers.
“According to the CCC report, the Government estimates that 80% of the 2030s workforce is already in employment, i.e. the existing pool of building services tradespeople are integral to future heat pump demand; an exciting proposition for installers already trained or planning to upskill,” says Griff.
“Even before the introduction of the Boiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS), heat pump installations were rising rapidly, up 47% compared to last year. The report states, however, that progress needs to accelerate at greater speed if we are to meet our decarbonisation targets.
BUS is an initial push, not the answer to mass deployment
“Momentum is building and these are the factors at play.The report states that there were 54,000 new heat pump installations in domestic dwellings across the UK in 2021, marking a 47% increase on the previous year. Looking forward, the Boiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS) will fund just 30,000 installations per annum for the next three years. It’s clear from these figures that a significant number of installations are not reliant on any grant funding.
“Rather than a policy for mass deployment, the BUS is an initial step in building consumer confidence and developing the market. It’s part of a long-term response that secures a ‘holding pattern’ ahead of 2025, following which we can expect to see some meaningful policies designed to hit the 2028 target of 600,000 heat pumps a year.
A reduction in upfront costs is essential for long-term success
“Cost is a great barrier to heat pump installation, but why is it so expensive to buy a heat pump? There are two factors at play here, small production runs and the cost of R&D.
“R&D is a significant investment with any new technology which manufacturers must recoup. To facilitate essential R&D, the government is providing £60 million of funding through the Net Zero Innovation Portfolio (NZIP) to improve the efficiency of heat pump manufacturing and develop ‘smart grid ready’ products.
“These smart capabilities, combined with an increase in demand driven in-part by the market-based mechanism from 2024, will see the supply chain stabilise and upfront costs significantly reduced (25% – 50%) before 2030.
Running costs must achieve parity with gas boilers
“According to CCC estimates, the average heating bill is around 10% higher for a heat pump than gas but these figures should be taken with a pinch of salt considering the recent changes we’ve seen in the energy sector. While the unit price of electricity is higher than gas, a heat pump will produce at least three times the amount of heat per kWh compare with a gas boiler.
“The CCC suggests removing levies from electricity which would directly reduce heat pump running costs. To achieve true parity, all heat pumps need to be intelligent enough to communicate with the smart network, which would allow consumers to take advantage of reduced rate ‘heat pump tariffs.
“There is so much money being pumped into this area and I believe we will see vast improvements in heat pump connectivity well before 2028.
Thousands of skilled heat pump installers needed
“The heat pump deployment challenge is a golden opportunity for heating installers. Progress is set to scale-up rapidly over the next few years as policies and technological developments accelerate the low-carbon sector forward. Thousands of new heat pump installers are required to deliver this large-scale change – it’s time for heating installers to get excited about the future.”
BESA expresses concerns
The Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) has echoed the concerns expressed by the UK’s Climate Change Committee (CCC) that current economic and energy security concerns could derail progress towards net zero carbon targets. In a show of support for the urgency of net zero, the organisation has also launched a new ‘net zero initiative’ award.
In its latest report, the committee said there were still “shocking” policy gaps and “scant evidence of delivery” since the government produced its net zero strategy last year. It praised the intent of the strategy, but said it would not deliver net zero at the current rate of progress.
The Government’s intention is to achieve a 78% reduction in carbon emissions by 2035 compared to 1990 levels as a first stage on the way to a net zero economy by 2050. However, the CCC reported that the UK was only on track in eight out of 50 key net zero indicators.
Will the Government stay on course?
“We are worried whether this government, which has made lots of progress over the last 12 months, is going to stay the course,” said CCC chief executive Chris Stark.
“That was the year of COP26, so we expected progress. The challenge now is to deliver against the objectives that they set for themselves last year, and frankly they are taking a very risky approach.”
“An urgent focus on existing buildings – with the government underwriting a huge programme of refurbishments and retrofits – would help get us on track to net zero,” said BESA’s head of technical Graeme Fox.
“This could make a significant dent in the large contribution made by the built environment to emissions – particularly in ‘operational’ carbon, which would also translate into much lower running costs for building users.”
Reminding the sector of its role in net zero
He said that building services engineers, like everyone else in the construction supply chain, should also give more thought to designing with ongoing service and maintenance in mind to minimise long-term carbon – and to consider how materials and system components could be recycled, reused, and more easily replaced as part of planning ahead for refurbishment and repair.
To remind the sector of its important contribution to net zero and the urgency of the task in hand, BESA is also promoting its net zero initiative award, which will be presented as part of its National Conference and Awards event in London on October 20th.
The award is open to any company or individual who can demonstrate their commitment to the UK’s target of achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050. This could either be through the delivery of a project with strong net zero credentials, by producing an innovative technology, process or methodology that advances net zero, or a wider initiative such as developing training or addressing corporate culture.