A new year of ambition for the Heat Pump Association, and a new Chairman to lead the way.

It is no secret that we need to change the way we heat our buildings. The UK is home to some of the most inefficient homes in Europe, with the way we heat our buildings being responsible for up to 37% of our total greenhouse gas emissions. Even with the rising concerns for climate change in recent years, the fossil fuel heating systems keeping us warm during the winter season are often last to blame, despite the huge impact they have on individual and collective carbon footprints.  The Heat Pump Association (HPA) is committed to changing the narrative.

At the start of the year that many are hoping will be dominated by climate action, I am delighted to begin my appointment as Chairman of the HPA, alongside the new Vice Chairman Max Halliwell.

Graham Wright, who has now stepped down as Chairman of the HPA after his two-year term, has left the HPA in great shape and I now look forward to building on his tireless work and leadership. Together as an association, we now represent the majority of heat pump manufacturers in the UK and have seen some major breakthroughs for the industry. This is only set to continue at full force in the years ahead.

The pressure is on for the heating industry to deliver the transformation the UK’s net zero target demands, and the HPA will continue to encourage both industry and the Government to support the growth of the heat pump market. The Climate Change Committee has highlighted heat pumps as a reliable and essential technology on the road to net zero, recommending that 1 million heat pumps are installed per year by 2030. The shakeup of the industry is both necessary and inevitable: The Government’s latest deployment target of 600,000 heat pumps a year by 2028 has confirmed the direction of travel for the heating industry and we need the right frameworks in place immediately. All the stops need to be pulled out to ensure that the installer base is prepared to deliver the right knowledge and support to households up and down the country and to install heat pumps into new and existing homes.

Change has already begun. In 2019, the HPA published its report, ‘Delivering Net Zero: A Roadmap for the Role of Heat Pumps’ which has led to significant changes for the industry. We have seen the extension of the Renewable Heat Incentive, the Future Homes Standard commitment, a proposed Clean Heat Grant Scheme, and of course the Green Homes Grant, which is already underway. Towards the end of last year, the HPA launched a new report ‘Retrofitting Homes for Net Zero Heating: Regulatory Change’ which provides a clear direction for the regulatory change needed to provide the certainty needed for installers to train in heat pumps.

It is vital that supportive policy framework is put in place to make sure that installer numbers rise along with demand; a mix of subsidy to help grow the market initially alongside regulation and market frameworks is needed to provide the long-term stability and certainty. This is essential to the long-term success of the market and is a key priority for my work as Chairman over the next two years.

A crucial point to mention is that installers are not just key to meeting the rising demand for heat pumps but to stimulating more demand as time goes on. Most consumers refer to heating installers when choosing a new system and find them the most useful source of information in the decision process. Moreover, they are interested in reducing their carbon footprints. The caveat is that they must first make the link between greenhouse gas emissions and their heating systems – and installers, who have face to face interaction with households, are best placed to help them do so. It is paramount that all installers, including over 100,000 registered gas and oil contractors, have the knowledge they need to recommend and install heat pumps. The HPA has made considerable progress on developing and revamping the route to becoming a heat pump installer and will continue to focus on this challenge as we move forward with the new heat pump courses due to launch next month.

This year needs to be the turning point for action on climate change, and heat decarbonisation is a key priority. I look forward to working with Max Halliwell and the rest of the Heat Pump Association’s members to deliver the change required. It is a challenging and exciting time for the low carbon heating industry and while there is a huge amount of work to be done, I am confident that we can drive the change needed.

Written by Phil Hurley, Chairman of the Heat Pump Association

Originally published in the January issue of Heating & Plumbing Monthly.