When only 60,000 heat pumps per year are being installed, achieving 600,000 installations by 2028 looks like a tall mountain to climb; and to reach one million sounds like an Alpine peak beyond the cloud base.
"We cannot lower the mountain”, to quote rock climber Todd Skinner, “therefore we must elevate ourselves".
We do this, not to plant a flag at the top, but to help us get to net zero by 2050.
At Mitsubishi Electric’s recent Ecodan customer conference, the question was asked if we can reach that basecamp of 600,000 heat pumps per year.
Our factory in Livingston is increasing the manufacture of heat pumps.
But the supply of heat pumps in the UK alone won’t get us to our target.
We need more heating engineers to install them.
It’s more important than ever that heating engineers are trained to install energy-efficient technologies
A staggering shortfall
According to UK Innovation Agency, Nesta: “There is a massive shortage of qualified heat pump engineers. … the number of heat pump engineers is estimated to be around 3,000 (and) we will need at least 27,000 qualified engineers by 2028 to meet the government’s target.”
Nesta estimates that “on average, this means training roughly 5,000 to 7,000 installers per year from 2025 to 2035 – more engineers every year than we currently have in total.”
That’s a staggering amount.
As a company, we are training more heating engineers and we’ve expanded our training offer with fully equipped centres in Hatfield and Manchester and have plans to develop more across the country.
Harlow leads the way
We’ve recently also teamed-up with Harlow College to establish the Renewable Energy Training Centre, a new on-campus project for the next generation of heating engineers to train in using green technologies.
The centre is fully equipped with six Ecodan air source heat pumps, roof-mounted photo-voltaic solar panels, associated collection points and energy-storage unit and two electric vehicle charging points.
The solar panels will provide enough energy to power the centre, and any extra energy will be put back into the National Grid.
Ecodan air source heat pumps can be installed in any new development or retrofit project as part of a modern eco-friendly and energy-efficient heating system, and offer a more environmentally friendly alternative to traditional gas-fired, solid fuel or oil-fired heating systems.
The importance of training
With the government aiming to upgrade all homes to an EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) rating of C within the next ten years, it’s more important than ever that heating engineers are trained to install energy-efficient technologies in our buildings.
The new centre at Harlow College will support this aim by training students on installing and maintaining renewable energy appliances.
Workstations at the centre will allow learners to develop an understanding of how to install and maintain air source heat pumps, supporting the local community and businesses in meeting targets for net zero.
The college tutors who will train the heating engineers of the future are certified to a minimum of NVQ Level Three as qualified plumbing and heating engineers.
They have also undertaken specific Ecodan product installation training at our own Training Centre in Hatfield.
Meeting industry needs
Additionally, Harlow College’s Deputy Principal Will Allanson said, the trainers “have developed programmes that meet industry needs with the skills employers’ require.” Importantly, he continues, this means the college can offer “a career led curriculum”, and young people will gain qualifications “to enter industry with the skills to work on renewable energy systems.”
Russell Dean, Mitsubishi Electric’s Residential Product Group Director, recognises the opportunities for young heating engineers, saying: “With the mass deployment of heat pumps, the demand in the market is so good that it’s almost guaranteed that these engineers will find employment.”
He went on: “We believe that collaborations such as this, with Harlow College, can help ensure that future generations have access to the training and knowledge needed to build a greener, more sustainable future as we aim to achieve net zero.”
A carbon neutral commitment
Karen Spencer, Principal of Harlow College, added: “At Harlow College, we have made a commitment to being carbon neutral in line with the Climate Action Roadmap for Colleges. Training the future generation of heating engineers is part of our contribution to our local community and the environment.
“We absolutely recognise the contribution they will make to a more sustainable future. We are proud to be working in partnership with Mitsubishi Electric, who are supporting our venture and helping both our staff and students train in this new technology.”
Maybe that mountain is high, but what this collaboration between Harlow College and Mitsubishi Electric shows is that we can elevate ourselves, to find solutions, and to develop the skills that will get us beyond the cloud base and reach our net zero target.
Achilleas Georgiou is Communications Manager for Residential Heating