Phasing Out Fossil Fuel Heating in Off Grid Homes

Phil Hurley, Chair of the Heat Pump Association

It goes without saying that we need to phase out fossil fuel heating systems. Whether we’re looking at it from the perspective of meeting net zero or the best ways to protect people from the rising energy prices, the answer lies in improving the efficiency of our homes and buildings.

And fortunately, the importance of phasing out fossil fuel heating isn’t up for debate. The Heat and Buildings Strategy committed to the phase out in homes off the gas grid way last October; but how we go about it is another question entirely.

This all-important problem was recently tackled within one of the many consultations published alongside the Heat and Buildings Strategy last October: phasing out the installation of fossil fuel heating systems in homes off the gas grid.

Here’s an overview of the Heat Pump Association’s response to some of the key proposals:

Using the Natural Replacement Cycle as the Trigger for Phasing Out Fossil Fuels

Whilst the HPA strongly supports the phase out of highly polluting fossil fuel boilers as soon as possible, that’s not to say that we believe they should be removed at mass right away. Doing so would not only be wasteful but would also impose unnecessary high costs on consumers. In short, the Government’s proposal for using the natural replacement cycle of fossil fuel heating systems for the phase out makes sense.  

But it’s not the only trigger point we need to keep in mind.

We must make sure that other opportunities for preparing homes for the phase out of fossil fuel heating are capitalised. This is especially true when we consider that the installation of heat pumps can in some cases require preparatory work, such as fabric efficiency improvements, heat emitter upgrades or hot water cylinder installations. When renovation and fit out work is being undertaken on a property, particularly where a heating system may be approaching the end its life, it is an ideal opportunity for homeowners to also consider completing preparatory work for heat pumps at the same time. This will help to prepare homes for the future of low carbon heat whilst reducing costs and disruption. However, it is important that consumers are provided with the right information so that they are able to fully consider the options available to them when undertaking renovation work.

Ending the Installation of Fossil Fuel Heating in Homes Off the Gas Grid by 2026

It was promising to see a proposal for ending the installation of fossil fuel heating in off grid homes by 2026 – two years before the recommendation put forward by the Climate Change Committee. A commitment such as this is key to providing industry with the confidence needed to prepare and invest in the future of heat, particularly when it comes to growing the installer base.

The HPA and the wider industry are fully committed to supporting the heat pump transition and have taken huge strides in recent years to upskill the workforce. The training course we launched last year was a key milestone and will be available for bookings cross 38 training centres with the combined ability to train over 40,000 installers each year at full capacity. But it is critical that we now see policy support from government to ensure these training places are filled.

We believe policy support from government should include a requirement for all heating installers to have a Low Temperature Heating and Hot Water Qualification, or equivalent, as part of accreditation scheme refresher courses, which are already being undertaken every five years. This is a no-regrets step considering that all heating systems are more efficient at lower temperatures, whether we’re taking about gas boilers or heat pumps.

Taking a Heat Pump First Approach

The HPA was pleased to see proposals for a ‘heat pump first approach’ to phasing out fossil fuel heating systems. With the technology already being well established and ready to deploy right away, we have long advocated for heat pumps to be widely deployed across the UK in line with what has already been done across other parts of Europe. Whilst we of course accept that there may be certain, albeit very limited, instances where an alternative system may be appropriate for the property in question, we strongly believe that careful design considerations should be given to each individual building when determining options for low carbon heat to maximise the opportunity for heat pump deployment.

It’s important to highlight that heat pumps are able to offer a solution to all property types, with high temperature heat pumps and hybrid systems offering a route to net zero heating even in the hardest to treat homes. This can be seen in the recent results from the Electrification of Heat Project, but also in France where high temperature heat pumps are proving popular as part of the French Government’s programme to phase out oil boilers.

The Bigger Picture

Of course, the overview above only touches on the proposals outlined within the recently closed consultation, and we look forward to seeing an update from Government in the months ahead.

If you would like to find out more about the Heat Pump Association’s views on the phase out of fossil fuels in off grid homes, please email info@heatpumps.org.uk