As the final months of 2022 tick away into Autumn, the government’s goal of achieving 600,000 annual heat pump installations by 2028 grows more challenging.
If this year has taught the UK anything, it’s that our reliance on fossil fuels for heating and hot water must end sooner rather than later.
This is not only an environmental issue (though that’s important enough) but also one of affordability for householders and businesses.
With just over six years to go, how can we boost the number of heat pump installations?
The current UK situation
Heat pump technology has been identified as a cost-effective and practical alternative to the gas boiler.
Heat pumps use electricity from our greener grid while providing a robust solution for heating and hot water, even in commercial environments.
The good news from the Heat Pump Association (HPA) is that in 2021 manufacturers doubled their supply of heat pumps into UK supply chains.
While that shows movement in the right direction, the total number of units was 67,000 – a long way short of the government’s target.
Wales leads the way
The Welsh government may be showing the way, as it has taken the bold step of banning gas boiler installations in all new-build social housing projects.
Since the end of 2021, grant-funded affordable home schemes were no longer permitted to use fossil fuel systems for heating and hot water.
It was a move that might have caused problems in the supply of social housing. Instead, housebuilders have embraced the low-carbon approach.
Inside Housing magazine reported that several of these projects have welcomed the requirements, with some adding to the number of homes being constructed with the help of additional Welsh government grants.
The Welsh government has set other requirements along with the ban on gas boilers, such as using modern methods of construction and ensuring the new homes are well-insulated. In addition, it has also stated its ambition for private housebuilders to follow suit from 2025.
England has not yet adopted a similar policy for housing, but across the UK, we see that where actionable incentives are offered, building owners are ready and willing to adopt heat pump technology.
The Boiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS) was launched in April 2022 and runs until 2025. It is available for domestic and small non-domestic properties (in England and Wales).
The scheme offers a £5,000 voucher per property for installing an air-source or ground-source heat pump.
Figures from the BUS scheme from May to July 2022 show that it has attracted just over 4,000 applications for air source heat pumps (and 99 for ground source heat pumps).
The government’s statistics on the scheme show that BUS-supported air source heat pumps have replaced 481 gas boilers and 244 oil boilers - the majority in domestic projects. The mean installation cost has been £12,938, so the £5,000 grant represents around 38% of the cost for those householders.
Salix funding is another excellent example of government support helping to create change in the heating market.
The Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme (as it’s more correctly known) provides grants for buildings such as schools, universities and hospitals to support decarbonisation and improve building energy efficiency.
Phase 2 of the PSDC allocated £74.6 million in grants, awarding 54 grants to 49 different organisations. Around 25% of the grants went to buildings in the NHS estate, amounting to £69 million.
So, we can see that government schemes are helping to turn the tide on the number of heat pump installations.
There can be no doubt that today’s heat pump technologies are helping to achieve that since they can now provide robust space heating delivery and hot water even in commercial environments.
For example, the Mitsubishi Electric QAHV can provide water up to 90oC, making it suitable even for projects with high peak water demand, such as university accommodation, making it a realistic alternative for the gas boiler.
Achieving that 600,000 annual target is undoubtedly a challenge, but with the proper support and advice, homeowners and building managers in the public and private sector are willing to step up and make the change.
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Simon Walker is M&E Business Development Manager for the North of England, and Scotland.