Two years since the Boiler Upgrade Scheme opened – but what does the data say?

Today marks the two-year anniversary since the Boiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS) first opened to applications in 2022.

Head and shoulders image of Ian Rippin of MCS.

The scheme offers homeowners and small businesses in England and Wales funding towards the installation of a low-carbon heating system.

It initially offered grants of £5,000, but last year this was raised to £7,500 towards the cost and installation of an air source or ground source heat pump. A total of £5,000 is available for biomass boilers.

Applications to the scheme have increased significantly between 2023 and 2024, which has been attributed in large part to the uplift in funding.

Further changes have been brought in this month which are designed to make heat pumps even easier to install, as there is no longer a mandatory requirement for people to install cavity wall or loft insulation in order to qualify for the grant.

It’s too early to say what impact this may have on scheme take-up, but figures over the coming months should provide some indication.

There’s also the issue about the potential impact on heat pump performance in a home that isn’t properly insulated – the fabric first approach.

BUS uptake figures to date

Government figures up to the end of February showed the scheme had so far paid out close to £127 million across 35,741 applications.

Ian Rippin, CEO of MCS, said: “As we mark the two-year anniversary of the BUS, the figures show a growing number of homeowners are taking advantage of the incentive to make the switch to low-carbon heating.

“The number of BUS applications in March alone was 46% higher in 2024 compared to March 2023, and looking at January to March as a whole, applications were up by 56% compared to the same period in 2023.

“This is reflected in the MCS data, which shows that April was the best month of 2024 so far for the uptake of small-scale renewables, with a total of 18,621 certified installations across the UK.

“There were more than 4,500 certified heat pump installations in April alone, making it the third-best month for heat pumps in the scheme’s history. Average monthly heat pump installations this year are 32% higher compared to 2023, setting the stage for what looks to be another record-breaking year for the technology.

“It’s evidence that more homeowners are making the switch to low carbon heating, bolstered in part through government initiatives such as the Boiler Upgrade Scheme.

Critical part of the low carbon heating drive

“The scheme, which requires installations to be MCS-certified to qualify for the grant, remains a critical part of the drive to make low carbon heating more accessible and affordable.

“Clearly, there is still some way to go in order to achieve the target of 600,000 annual heat pump installations by 2028, but with the BUS running until March of the same year, consumer demand looks set to continue rising.

“Alongside this, there must be a strong pipeline of competent, certified contractors to deliver the installations, and MCS data shows that the number of certified heat pump contractors has grown by more than 250 over the past 12 months, with almost 70% of those registered for the BUS scheme. This highlights the impact that the BUS is having as we move towards a low carbon future.” 

Changes allow people to spread costs

Speaking previously about this month’s changes to the BUS regarding insulation, Simon Roberts, chief executive of Heatio, said: “The need to have loft insulation or a cavity wall fitted, before a heat pump is installed, was a barrier to many homes up and down the country.

“For too long the option of green home technology like solar panels and heat pumps have only been for the affluent. The changes in the Boiler Upgrade Scheme regulations will hopefully change that and allow people to spread out the costs of changes at a pace that works for them and their budget.

“This is definitely welcomed. We strongly believe that any step towards energy efficient technologies like heat pumps are worth taking whether they are big or small.”

Tamara Birch, senior writer at the Eco Experts, added: “By removing the requirement to install cavity wall or loft insulation, families are given greater choice on how they improve their home.

“The Government said by doing this, households will be able to spread out the costs of changes at a pace that works for them, but warns properties should be well insulated to keep costs down.”

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Image credit: Renewable Energy Installer Magazine