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Industry bodies react to Heat and Buildings Strategy

There has been mixed reaction to the Government's long-awaited Heat and Buildings Strategy from heating industry bodies.


The Strategy has unveiled phased out dates for the installation of fossil fuel heating, increased funding support for households purchasing heat pumps, and the rebalancing of environmental levies on electricity.  

Phil Hurley, chair of the Heat Pump Association (HPA), said: “The heat pump industry warmly welcomes these bold steps forward. The industry in the best shape it has ever been, with sales this year already double those seen ever before.

“This announcement is timed perfectly to take advantage of the HPA's recently-launched training course, with the industry now ready to retrain the UK’s army of installers with the capacity to train up to 40,000 per year, to ensure consumers can find a suitably trained and skilled heat pump installer when they need one.

“Today’s announcement will give industry and installers a huge confidence boost that now is the time to scale-up and retrain in preparation for the mass roll out of heat pumps, as well as making heat pumps as affordable as boilers, so all consumers can soon access and enjoy the benefits of affordable, reliable low carbon heating that stands the test of time.”

Laura Bishop, chair of the Ground Source Heat Pump Association (GSHPA) said: “The GSHPA warmly welcomes the release of the Heat and Buildings Strategy. We look forward to a consistent policy environment which will drive growth in our sector and the UK economy on the path towards achieving Net Zero.

“Ground source heat pumps represent a long-term infrastructure asset which delivers unrivalled efficiencies in generating clean heat, and we hope the policy will underpin the mass market roll out we have been anticipating for some time.”

Stewart Clements, director of the Heating and Hotwater Industry Council (HHIC) said: “As an industry, we have worked collaboratively to provide government with the information they needed to make policy decisions on the future of heat in domestic buildings in the UK. I am pleased that the key evidence outlined by HHIC has been acknowledged by BEIS.

“HHIC welcomes the publication of the Heat and Buildings strategy. HHIC and its members will continue to support the government and consumers with the transition to a mix of new, low-carbon heating solutions for different property types in different parts of the country – such as electric heat pumps, heat networks, and hydrogen boilers.”

“The strategy from government allows the HHIC membership to make the investment choices required to facilitate the manufacturing, installation, and training for low carbon heating products.”

Steve McConnell, director, Industrial & Commercial Heating Equipment Association (ICOM) said: “ICOM and its members have always backed a combined approach to tackle the Net Zero ambitions laid out. We are pleased that government has recognised heat networks and hydrogen as the way forward for sectors that will be difficult to decarbonise with electricity. It is encouraging that the Heat and Buildings Strategy supports development of innovative and emerging technologies.

“The UK has real potential for hydrogen in particular, which can deliver new skilled jobs in places where the UK already has a proud industrial and energy heritage. A hydrogen economy will strengthen energy security and give consumers a choice in how they want to protect their comfort levels as well as the planet.

“It is now more important than ever to work together and use every available energy vector in the push to achieve our low carbon objectives.”

On behalf of the Manufacturers of Equipment for Heat Networks Association (MEHNA), Mr McConnell said: “Heat networks are an essential part of the decarbonisation approach. The technology is already available, and the carbon savings are being made. The £338 million funding for the Heat Network Transformation Programme is money well spent.

“Currently there are over 14,000 heat networks in the UK, providing heating and hot water to around 480,000 consumers. This is proven technology that will assist the UK to make carbon reductions, and enable consumers to protect their heating and hot water comfort levels, safe in the knowledge that it is being done in the most efficient way possible.

“MEHNA and its members will continue to support government as the UK transitions to Net Zero.”

The Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) chief executive David Frise said: “This is welcome detail that confirms some of the Government’s earlier commitments. However, delivering on the country’s wider low carbon pledges now requires a concerted focus on training and skills.

“Switching the industry from traditional fossil fuel solutions to more renewable and low carbon systems requires a monumental programme of reskilling and recruitment,” he said. “It also has major supply chain implications. We are not just talking about single pieces of technology here – installing a heat pump (or any fossil fuel alternative) calls for a certain approach to projects and requires installers to consider the building as a complete system.

“Someone who has spent their career installing boilers cannot just turn round and start putting in heat pumps without detailed training to understand the nuances of low temperature heating including improving building insulation.”

Chief executive of the Energy and Utilities Alliance (EUA), Mike Foster, said: “The grant hardly sets the world alight and is insufficient to the scale of the challenge we face in terms of reaching Net Zero.

“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.

“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.”

Mr 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 £5,000 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.”

Isaac Occhipinti, director of External Affairs, Hot Water Association (HWA), said the HWA is disappointed the Strategy ignores the significant potential of hot water storage and heating.

“The Government has to step up its efforts to decarbonise heating and hot water, and it was hoped that this long awaited Heat and Buildings Strategy would set us on the path to Net Zero.

“Unfortunately it fails to recognise the untapped potential of hot water storage-estimated to be around seven times the capacity of the UK’s largest pumped hydro power facility (Dinorwig in Wales)- instead, focusing on the heat source and forgetting the rest of the heating and hot water system.

“There is much excitement around the role that energy storage technologies can play to help accommodate more low to zero carbon energy sources into the UK’s generation infrastructure, however, relatively little attention has been paid to hot water cylinders. There are currently approximately nine million hot water cylinders installed, in homes across England, which is less than 45% of homes in England, down from 77% in 2001.

“In order to meet Net Zero all UK homes will need low to zero carbon heating. Most currently available low carbon heating solutions require a hot water cylinder. We are in desperate need of a strategy to stop the decline in hot water storage population in the UK. If the Government is serious, about decarbonisation then we need to encourage homeowners, at the very minimum, to keep their hot water cylinder in order to future proof their heating system and maximise the UK’s energy storage potential.

“In addition to meeting multi outlet demand, storage systems are essential partners to any renewable energy input as these sources need to be harvested and stored. Hot water storage is the only practical solution to turning the energy into something useful and banking it for when it needs to be used.

“The energy storage potential associated with the UK’s installed capacity of domestic hot water cylinders is comparable to our entire fleet of pumped-hydro-electric storage and with just a fraction of this resource; it would be possible to absorb the largest surpluses of renewable power that arise from offshore wind and solar PV.”

Kevin Wellman, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering (CIPHE) said: “This is a step in the right direction, and should fund 1 in 20 of the Government’s commitment to install 600,000 heat pump units per year by 2028. We applaud the £5,000 grant to help kick start the move to low carbon technology, as this will inevitably provide more choice when it comes to replacing ageing heating systems.

“The good news for those living off grid, is that the Homes Upgrade Grant, launching in April, will be funding insulation (and heat pumps for those suitable that want them) for low income households rated D and below in off-gas grid properties. However, swapping out-dated boilers for heat pumps will still be out of reach for the majority of lower income homeowners. Heat pumps run at considerably lower temperatures to traditional boilers at around 50°C (55°C max), and so homeowners will have to pay for considerable upgrades to insulation if they are to run affordably. As it’s these households who often face the highest heating bills due to a combination of higher tariffs, poorly insulated homes and older, inefficient boilers, its vital they are not left behind.

“The CIPHE would implore government to raise the bar on home insulation with a viable alternative introduced to the Green Homes Grant Scheme. With 66% of existing homes at Energy Performance Certificate D or worse, upgrading energy efficiency is the biggest step we can take to make sure housing is ready for low carbon heating, and should be one of the building blocks for net zero.

“The industry also needs support to train up to 100,000 installers in low carbon technologies to ensure systems are designed and installed correctly and efficiently. It is imperative that installers are sufficiently trained to NVQ level 3 or equivalent and be in possession of the CIPHE’s Low Temperature Heating and Hot Water design qualification. The world is watching the UK closely, so it's crucial we have a robust approach to net zero and that the government strategy is one that pulls together the many strands required to make it work.”

Trade Associations UKIFDA, for fuel distributors, and OFTEC, representing liquid fuel equipment manufacturers and training providers, welcomed the publication of the Heat and Buildings Strategy and associated off-grid consultation which recognises the role of renewable liquid fuels in supporting the decarbonisation of off-grid households in the UK.

Ken Cronin, chief executive of UKIFDA, commented: “The Government has to recognise the physical reasons why our customers use oil in their central heating. A typical oil heated home is detached, built pre-1919 with solid walls, is rural and quite often remote, far from the gas grid and with less resilient connections to the electricity grid meaning that the cost to convert to heat pumps will be on average £20,000 per home.”

Paul Rose, chief executive of OFTEC, said: “A renewable liquid heating fuel is the ideal solution. It can be achieved in one visit and use the existing infrastructure both in the home and in industry. The Heating and Buildings Strategy acknowledges that there could be a role to play for these types of fuel. What is needed is the same incentives currently provided for the use of the renewable liquid fuel in cars and planes extended to home heating. It makes no sense to incentivise these fuels for travel but not for keeping people warm in winter.”



19 October 2021


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