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Heat Network supply chain collaboration essential for decarbonisation

Following the Climate Change Committee (CCC)’s Progress Report to Parliament stating the UK is lagging in its building decarbonisation efforts, REHAU is calling on the Government to increase heat pump uptake by reducing the ‘spark gap’.

The committee lamented that heat pump installations in 2022 fell well below the 130,000 recommended for the country to remain on-track with its 2050 emissions-neutral target. With only 72,000 installed last year and the CCC identifying heat pumps as a crucial, low-regret decarbonisation option to sustainably heat buildings, more seamless support is required to integrate the technology in small- and large-scale projects.

This is the view of Steve Richmond, head of marketing and technical at REHAU Building Solutions. Specifically, citing the CCC’s conclusion that supply chains for electrified heat are weak and growing too slowly, he is highlighting the importance of governmental action to reduce the difference between gas and electricity prices – the so-called ‘spark gap’ – to boost smaller individual heat pump installations and larger heat pump-led district heating projects.

“Though the number of heat pump installations rose in 2022, it is disappointing that we remain behind schedule in the adoption of this technology,” Steve explains. “As the report makes clear, we will need to install an ever-increasing amount of heat pumps year-on-year if the country is to achieve net zero by 2050. This current disparity does not bode well for the CCC’s target of 145,000 installations by the end of 2023, so swift action will be required to get back on track. 

“One immediate step that can be taken is moving levies on electricity to general taxation. This is a key policy area the Government admits needs addressing to help the deployment of heat pumps on both individual and district schemes by shortening payback times. While this would encourage the transition away from fossil fuel heating systems, additional actions should also be taken, including making capital funding available for non-domestic energy users. 

“Currently, only public buildings and large schemes are covered under the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme and Green Heat Network Fund respectively, but more initiatives are required if we are to reach Net Zero.”

The CCC’s report went on to say the Government needs to clarify plans for low-carbon heat. Though it acknowledges the intention for a ‘strategic decision’ on hydrogen’s role in 2026, the committee warned that this is too far away for a pressing problem that needs to be tackled now. Taking this into account, Steve is advising specifiers explore already proven low-carbon technologies such as heat pumps and heat networks.

“As the CCC’s report made clear, we need to prioritise progress and pace over perfection to effectively decarbonise buildings,” Steve says. “I couldn’t agree more with this – there will undoubtedly be space for multiple green energy sources in the future national heating mix, but we cannot delay moving forward with viable technologies now. 

“I would therefore encourage heating professionals working within this space to engage suppliers helping implement heat pumps and district heating schemes, especially given the ongoing phase-out of gas boilers. As the CCC says, these technologies are often no-regret options, so projects using them will not be significantly affected by any strategic decisions on heat.” 

He concludes: “With the demand for sustainability having long moved from a preference to a priority in building services, heat pumps and heat networks provide a clear way forward. Leveraging the expertise of the supply chain to adopt best practices and products should be an urgent priority for industry stakeholders.”

10 August 2023


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