Industry reacts to Government’s low carbon incentive plans

The Government’s plans to incentivise people to install low-carbon heating systems  as they replace their old boilers over the next few years have broadly been welcomed by the industry, though most feel that the scheme does not go far enough.


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“Grant UK welcomes this step on the journey to Net Zero for the UK, however there are some barriers to overcome before we can truly begin to roll out some of the Government’s proposals,” says Neil Sawers, Grant UK’s commercial technical manager.

“Positive steps towards resolving the current skills shortage are being taken with both the CIPHE Low Temperature Heating Course in addition to the Heat Pump Associations (HPA) LCL Heat Pump Training course, both of which will be available from Grant UK towards the end of this year. It is imperative that both the Governments funding initiatives and retraining/up-skilling of the workforce work in parallel. We are concerned that as yet there has been no announcement regarding other off gas heating alternatives, such as biofuels (HVO) and hybrid heating which would have a major impact on reducing carbon emissions and are more practical in terms of an immediate roll out.”

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House with hermal heating system on meadow field

At Baxi Heating, managing director Karen Boswell OBE, says: “We are truly committed to developing and offering affordable low-carbon heating solutions to our customers. We are involved in ground-breaking demonstration projects with the Hy4Heat consortium, including the UK’s first hydrogen fuelled home in Gateshead, together with investing in Air Source Heat Pumps and Heat Network components. To achieve net zero emissions how we heat our buildings must change. Not only does this require innovation from the heating industry but also a pragmatic policy framework to drive change.

“As such we welcome today’s publication of the Heat and Buildings Strategy from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS). This important document details a roadmap for the decarbonisation of heat which the industry can, and must, support.”

“2021 has been a year of growth for the heat pump market and the new scheme should be designed to deliver additional heat pump installations in segments of the retrofit market where heat pumps would not have otherwise been fitted,” says Viessmann managing director, Graham Russell. “The future of heat is about a mix of technologies and solutions working in tandem. There is no quick fix or single solution available to decarbonise the UK’s building stock. An array of technologies will have a role to play.

“Given the diversity of the UK building stock and consumer base, we are delighted that the strategy encompasses a mix of policies to promote heat pumps, hydrogen heat, heat networks and energy efficiency as well as new funding giving the industry a framework to push forward with innovative solutions.

“We think it is key that the new schemes announced as part of the strategy, such as the £450m Boiler Upgrade Scheme to replace the domestic RHI, should incrementally drive low carbon heat markets further. 2021 has been a year of growth for the heat pump market and the new scheme should be designed to deliver additional heat pump installations in segments of the retrofit market where heat pumps would not have otherwise been fitted.”

However, the strategy has come under fire for being: “insufficient for the scale of the challenge we face”.

Mike Foster, CEO of the Energy and Utilities Alliance,says: “The grant hardly sets the world alight and is insufficient to the scale of the challenge we face in terms of reaching Net Zerio. It subsidises 30,000 heat pumps being installed each year and is well short of the support needed to get to 600,000 heat pumps installed each year by 2028. My suspicion is that the Chancellor is putting the brakes on the Prime Minister’s flight of green fantasy.

“I suspect hydrogen-ready boiler installations will be far greater than that number by 2028, suggesting that consumers have made their choice. But that choice, between heat pumps or hydrogen-ready boilers, is one they should have.”

Foster is also concerned with the plight of those in fuel poverty. “For the 4.5 million households currently in fuel poverty, faced with rocketing bills and cuts to their universal credit, they must wonder what they have done wrong. The £5000 grant only pays half the cost of a heat pump, so those in fuel poverty will see no warmth from the government’s generosity; instead, it is middle-class bung for people who were probably going to fit a heat pump anyway.”

LIkewise, the UKGBC has welcomed the Government’s steps, but argues that simply phasing out gas boilers from 2035 is not ambitious enough – there needs to be a clear cut-off date from 2030 to put us on track to meet net zero. And £5,000 grants will help just 30,000 households – a drop in the ocean in the context of the 900,000 annual installations we need to see by 2028. Worse still, there’s no targeted financial help at all for low income households to embark on the journey to clean electric heating – meaning that the gap between rich and poor will widen, not close.  

 UKGBC would like to see a large scale domestic retrofit programme, energy performance standards that rely on actual energy use, and  an immediate drive to tackle embodied carbon emissions from construction and whole life.

Richard Beresford, chief executive of the National Federation of Builders (NFB), says: “Heat pumps are a technology which can be delivered at scale. The Government is therefore correct to indicate a work pipeline for this cottage industry, otherwise there won’t be enough engineers getting trained and the cost of installations will not go down. With the Government banning gas in new builds from 2025, we cannot be in a situation where homes cannot be built because the heating elements cannot be completed, or consumers who want heat pumps are competing with housebuilders for skilled installers.

 “The Government are correct to kickstart the heat pump industry, but it needs to consider how other solutions such as ground source, solar and wind need to be part of the mix. This will be key in generating the electricity needed for decarbonisation and means they must immediately reassess their onshore renewable approach.

“However, the most important challenge has was not cited and this the need to retrofit English and Welsh homes so that heat pumps use less energy and homes are healthier and warmer. The Government needs to engage with industries National Retrofitting Strategy and recognise, that at no cost to the taxpayer, the planning and policy elements of it will kickstart our essential retrofitting sector.”

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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