More Must Be Done to Decarbonise Heat in Homes

Much more must be done to decarbonise heat in homes to deliver net zero by 2050, but progress is being hindered by lack of direction from government. 

This was the overriding warning within a new report published by the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Select Committee last week following its inquiry into the problem.

Providing a critical and at times damning account of the Government’s attempts to decarbonise heat in homes, the report highlights that the Government has so far failed to set out a clear plan despite the publication of its Heat and Building Strategy last October.

Witnesses who advised the committee agreed that heat pumps are the primary driver in the transition away from gas boilers, with Energy UK calling for a million total installations by 2050 whilst the Climate Change Committee called for 900,000 each year by 2028.

However, despite the Government’s own target to install a minimum of 600,000 per year by 2028, just 36,000 were installed in 2020. As Chair of the Heat Pump Association, I was pleased to see our advice on the reason for this failure highlighted within the report, with our feedback attributing the lack of installations to the failure of government schemes.
Noting the repeated delays leading up to its publication, the report also highlights that the Heat and Buildings Strategy has failed to provide sufficient policy detail or clarity on delivery – which will ultimately delay the installation of essential low carbon heating technologies such as heat pumps.

To turn things around, the Committee has recommended that the Government work with industry to consider how the CCC’s target of 900,000 heat pumps a year could be achieved.

Industry and government collaboration is essential on the road to net zero and is something the HPA has long advocated for. Last year we launched a revised training route for heating installers in an attempt to prepare the workforce to meet the Government’s heat pump ambitions. However, industry action alone will not be enough to scale up the market.

Recognising this, the report highlights that the Heat and Buildings Strategy has failed to adequately set out a direction on upskilling, despite estimates that just 2,000 individual installers are trained to install heat pumps. Being offered at training courses up and down the country, the HPA’s own training course could theoretically upskill up to 40,000 installers each year, but certainty is needed from government to ensure that those training places are filled.

The committee has recommended that the Government introduce a heat decarbonisation sector deal by 2023 to help scale up heat supply chains and jobs across the country. Furthermore, the report also notes that electrification is the only option for off gas grid properties, and that a functional plan is required to ensure their decarbonisation.

Lastly, the report highlights the disparity between gas and electric levies, and recommends that they are rebalanced, specifically with respect to the carbon intensities of each fuel type.

The HPA urges the Government to take the recommendations outlined in the report to decarbonise this critical area of the economy.

Click here to read the full report