Special Report

How a new policy model has created an island paradise for heat pumps

Nestled in the Channel is an island that’s streets ahead of the rest of the UK when it comes to heat pumps and green energy policy. Jersey has created a model that makes electricity-based heating a far more cost-effective choice, which means that by 2026, there will be no fossil fuelled appliances installed on the island at all.

The Jersey model making electricity-based heating a far more cost-effective choice

Heat pumps are set to become the main heating source for Jersey’s 40,000 dwellings, with training for the legion of installers required to meet this mass roll-out provided by GTEC, the nationwide renewables course provider more commonly found in the UK.

In this, the first of a series of articles from GTEC’s MD, Griff Thomas, Griff explains what Jersey is doing right and the lessons that the UK could learn.

Overcoming the barriers

Griff Thomas, MD GTEC

The big stumbling block to the electrification of heat in mainland Britain is the cost of electricity versus gas and oil, which are usually cheaper – even after taking into account the superb efficiency that a heat pump system can achieve.

This, coupled with rising bills, will be putting many people off making the switch to greener, electricity-based heat sources such as heat pumps. There is no particular incentive to use electricity to heat your home, despite its considerable environmental benefits.

Things are different in Jersey. In order to speed up its personal path to net zero and completely do-away with fossil fuels in just a few years, using electricity for heating costs considerably less.

For 20 hours of the day, electricity costs just 12p per hour – a lot cheaper than our currently capped 34p. In comparison, gas costs 19p per hour and oil is over a £1 a litre. This means that even electric panel heaters are more cost-effective than gas and oil boilers and heat pumps are extremely cost effective. Overall, electricity is 4 – 5 times cheaper than fossil fuel alternatives on the island.

Of the 48,000 homes, currently 2,000 are on gas, 18,000 are on oil and the remainder use electricity. Predominantly using panel heaters or flow boilers at the moment, heat pumps are on the cusp of being widely adopted. By 2026, all of these dwellings will be heated using electricity-based technology and, to make sure these tariffs can be rolled successfully, every home already has a smart meter fitted.

It’s not just attractive energy tariffs that are facilitating the swift adoption of heat pumps and improved energy efficiency in general. Jersey properties have almost all got a minimum of 15mm pipework, and aluminium radiators form 99% of the installations.

There are also no specific planning permission requirements for domestic systems, DNO connections are easy as a three-minute form and like the UK, the island has an equivalent to the Boiler Upgrade Scheme paying up to £5,000 per system that is installed.

There are also grants for insulation; a quick fix to making homes far more efficient and part of the Government’s plans to bring into force legislation that updates current building regulation and sets increased energy efficiency and carbon emission standards for new and existing domestic and commercial buildings. In the rest of the UK, updated building regulations only apply to new builds, so there is no real impetus to make existing housing stock more energy efficient.

Easier to be ‘ideal’

Jersey’s policies are more possible due to the close-knit nature of the island. For example, Jersey Electric, which supplies the cables to the dwellings and bills the consumers for their energy, also has an installation team, and its engineers were among those we trained during our recent visit.

It’s size and responsiveness mean that is undoubtedly easier to move to this ‘ideal’ scenario. You have to ask, however, why can Jersey charge so little for electricity? Why can’t we look to adopt similar policies to help speed up the electrification of heat? Low tariffs not only benefit those that can afford a heat pump, they also assist the most vulnerable in our society who may be relying on old electrical heating systems.

Skilled installers

Skilled installers are essential to the roll out, hence the need for our training. Until recently, however, installers had to leave the island to undertake essential qualifications. We have collaborated with Jersey’s Highlands College to upskill existing installers, delivering government funded training candidates. Trainees on the course currently pay a nominal fee of £150 with the remaining cost subsidised, but there are still barriers to overcome.

More about that in my next article…

For more information about GTEC, visit: www.gtec.co.uk

For more information about Highlands College, visit: https://www.highlands.ac.uk/