HPA urges Government to firm up commitment to phasing out fossil fuel boilers
Industry has today warned that the 2035 phase-out of fossil fuel boilers must become a firm commitment rather than an “ambition” to avoid further damage to investor, installer and consumer confidence following the Prime Minister’s announcements (20/09/23) on decarbonising home heating.
Reacting to the Government’s policy changes, Charlotte Lee, Chief Executive of the Heat Pump Association, said:
“The Government has once again moved the goalposts for heat decarbonisation in the UK, and this risks damaging investor, installer and consumer confidence in this space unless this re-confirmed end date for fossil fuel boilers is strengthened from being an “ambition” to being a firm commitment.
The delay is yet another blow to the heating industry’s confidence in Government policy as Industry – including boiler manufacturers, has invested in good faith in manufacturing facilities, training and innovation to support heat pump deployment in keeping with the Government’s election manifesto and Heat and Buildings Strategy Commitments – particularly in line with the now abandoned end-date of 2026 for fossil fuel boilers off the gas grid.
Moreover, introducing and justifying possible exemptions by suggesting that many homes are not suitable for a heat pump is not supported by the most recent findings of Government-funded heat pump field trials. Consumers and installers may now adopt a damaging “wait and see” approach based on incorrect information, thereby delaying the inevitable transition to decarbonising heat.
Whilst we are pleased that the Boiler Upgrade Scheme grant has been increased, the current budget will now only support 20,000 heat pumps per year, just 3% of the 600,000 ambition for 2028. We urge the Government to take steps to increase this budget to allow all those who wish to install a heat pump to benefit from the grant.
We call upon the government to take swift action to reassure the heat pump market– by making the 2035 end date for fossil fuel boilers a firm commitment, by introducing the Future Homes and Buildings Standards in 2025 for new build, by increasing the budget available for the Boiler Upgrade Scheme and to take urgent action to reduce the price of electricity relative to fossil fuels.”
Notes to Editors:
1. On 20/9/23 the Prime Minister made several statements relating to decarbonising home heating. Of particular relevance to the heat pump industry were:
a. Delay the ban on installing oil and LPG boilers, and new coal heating, for off-gas-grid homes to 2035, instead of phasing them out from 2026. This is 7 years later than recommended by the Committee on Climate Change for off-gas-grid, and 2 years later for gas.
i. The Government claims many of these homes are not suitable for heat pumps, citing that some will need to spend £10-15,000 on upgrading their homes in just three years’ time, and the Prime Minister suggested on the Today Programme on 21/9/23 that some upgrades needed to a home for it to be compatible with a heat pump could be as high as £25,000.
ii. However, these claims are contrary to the findings of a Government-funded trial of 742 heat pumps across a wide area from July 2020 to October 2021, following which a Government Minister’s own statement directly contradicts the Prime Minister’s claims yesterday:
“Heat pumps powered by clean, renewable energy will be key to warming UK homes in a net zero future.
“This trial demonstrates that low-carbon heating systems are an effective alternative for homes of all types and ages. As technology continues to improve and costs plummet over the next decade, they will become the obvious, affordable choice for consumers.”
Energy and Growth Minister, Lord Callanan
iii. The compatibility of all homes with correctly specified heat pumps was confirmed as recently as July 2023 by the expert panel “POST” group Parliamentary briefing, which concluded:
“Heat pumps are technically suitable for most UK homes if installed appropriately.”
b. Set an exemption to the phase out of fossil fuel boilers in 2035, so that households who will struggle most to make the switch to heat pumps or other low-carbon alternatives won’t have to do so. This is expected to cover about a fifth of homes, including off-gas-grid homes – those that will need expensive retrofitting or a very large electricity connection.
i. The Government has not published any evidence to support this 1/5th assertion. The Heat Pump Association will engage with the Government to understand this in further detail.
ii. The detailed criteria for these exemptions will be critical both for reaching net zero, and for the heat pump industry, because any lifeline for fossil fuel boilers beyond a firm end date will create incentives for parts of the supply chain to continue serving the fossil fuel boiler market, taking investment and installer training away from heat pumps. In turn this will mean consumers will likely delay any decision to install a heat pump whilst the detailed exemption criteria remain unclear. This will damage heat pump market growth.
c. Scrap policies to force landlords to upgrade the energy efficiency of their properties, but instead continue to encourage households to do so where they can.
i. Following a 28 day statutory delay, to raise the Boiler Upgrade Grant to £7,500 to help households who want to replace their gas boilers with a low-carbon alternative like a heat pump. The Government has suggested this is a 50% uplift. However, this is not the case for ground source heat pumps, where it only represents a 25% increase on the current grant level of £6,000. Whilst all uplifts are welcome to a degree, the level of increased funding for ground source heat pumps falls considerably short of what is needed for the scale of the transition ahead.
2. The Committee on Climate Change is clear that we cannot reach net zero if we continue to use gas for heating, and heat pumps are the only alternative technology available today that can realistically be deployed at scale.
3. The Heat Pump Association has long called for a firm date for a fossil fuel boiler ban. Doing so will give the necessary firm commitment against which manufacturers will gear up to switch to heat pumps, and installers will have a clear signal of the need to ensure they have the appropriate skills. As we have seen from yesterday’s announcements, an “ambition”, such as that previously pledged to end the sale of fossil fuel boilers off-gas-grid, is insufficiently certain, and only a firm commitment will provide the necessary confidence for businesses to invest in the manufacturing, training and supply chain changes necessary to scale the industry up to the size needed to meet net zero in 2050.
4. Heat accounts for over a third of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions which is largely due to the dominance of gas and the use of more carbon intensive fuels, such as oil and LPG. In order to meet our legally binding net zero targets, low carbon heat sources will need to be adopted by homes on mass
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Olivia Smalley (Head of Policy and Communications)