Special Report

Government urged to ‘hold its nerve’ on net zero policies

In response to last month’s policy update from the Prime Minister the Ground Source Heat Pump Association (GSHPA) echoed the thoughts of many in the sector alarmed by the roll-back of some of the UK’s key climate policy and the potential consequences to sector growth.

GSHPA CEO Ken Gordon said: “We understand the complex considerations involved in such policy decisions. However, it is crucial to acknowledge that short-term leniencies might lead to long-term consequences that could be both environmentally and economically costly.

“We urge the government to reassess the implications of the delay and to continue its support for the renewable energy sector.

Increased support for heat pumps proves popular

Green Building Renewables (GBR) was among many welcoming the 50% increase in the Boiler Upgrade Scheme to £7,500 for air source heat pumps commenting: “Increasing the incentive to heat pumps is a small positive step to helping families and landlords install heat pumps.”

But GBR also felt a lot more could have been done: “We were disappointed by the lack of discussion about solar energy and the missed opportunity to invest more in green jobs that would benefit the renewable energy industry.”

“The people of the UK want to future-proof their buildings, cut energy costs, and reduce their environmental footprint. We feel that the government’s announcements yesterday do not match the understanding and appetite of the British public on this subject and the challenges ahead.

 “The extension of targets only creates uncertainty, reduces investment and slows the efficiencies and cost reductions needed.

“Consumers and businesses are embracing renewables and energy-efficient technologies. The government must match this ambition and provide consistent strategic policies that allow the sector to invest with certainty and develop the green jobs of the future.”

Unaddressed issues

Jeff House, External Affairs & Policy Director at Baxi, also highlighted concerns over unaddressed issues, particularly with regard to sector skills.

“As a manufacturer supplying multiple heating technologies including air source heat pumps, we have always been clear that consumer choice is paramount. We need to bring the public with us on a decarbonisation journey and driving consumer demand is a key requirement for developing the heat pump market in the UK.

By increasing the grant, we hope that more homeowners will be encouraged to make the switch to heat pumps.

“What has not been addressed, however, is the critical skills challenge that faces our industry. We still need to focus on bringing installers with us on this journey towards a greater adoption of heat pumps, so helping both heating engineers and their customers to become more comfortable with the technology is vital.

“We must also encourage more talent into the industry to grow the number of installers required to reach the installation targets that remain in place.”

Installer skills gap

Similarly concerned by the skills gap was Stewart Clements, Director of the Heating and Hotwater Industry Council (HHIC): “We welcome the time afforded to make a more thought out and successful switch to low carbon heating.

“The increase in financial support will undoubtedly incentivise the switch to heat pumps for more homeowners. Such a positive initiative, however, requires a significantly larger number of installers than previously estimated, which the government must work with industry to address.

“Data gathered by the HHIC suggests that, to meet the Government’s ambitious heat pump installation target of 600,000, we require 100,000 installers more than the Government’s prediction of 50,000 – a figure almost equivalent to the entire Gas Safe Register. This shows the need for further support in addressing the current skills gap to meet the expected rise in demand for low carbon heating.

The GSHPA expressed deep concerns over the potential damage to the ‘growing but fragile’ heat pump industry of delaying the boiler ban saying it poses ‘significant challenges to the UK’s 2050 climate targets’ and fails to deliver the desired protection to homeowners.

“Postponing the phase-out effectively shortens the window to retrofit and replace millions of heating systems. A delay now will only compress the timeline later, making the challenge exponentially greater. This does not safeguard ordinary families; it means they will have to expect even more disruption in the future. Government should provide the funding required for transition, not families.”

Prioritise energy efficiency

There were also calls to invest more in energy efficiency measures with Mark Krull, Director for Awarding Organisation, LCL Awards and building services training provider, Logic4training saying: “When it comes to improving the carbon footprint of our homes, we are still missing a trick. Whatever the heat source, energy efficiency should be the priority – keeping heat in and reducing bills for the most vulnerable in society.

“Affirmative action on insulation, draught proofing and glazing should be front and centre of the UK’s net zero policy, something that will also help cash-strapped voters who care most about making ends meet.“

This was echoed by Griff Thomas, from renewables training provider GTEC, who called for the government to ‘hold its nerve’ when it comes to net zero saying: “Right now, there are far simpler steps that will make the most inefficient of homes warmer and less costly. Insulation and draft proofing should be a priority.

“We need a pragmatic and proportionate approach to net zero that doesn’t abandon targets, but better considers and supports the people that these targets effect.”