The tour began with the Labour leader viewing the company’s new heat pump line, where UK manufacture of its aroTHERM plus air source heat pump is currently being ramped up with a view to being fully operational by the end of 2022. The aroTHERM plus uses a natural refrigerant which delivers a low global warming potential (GWP). The R290 refrigerant is exceptionally environmentally friendly and can provide heating and hot water not only in new build properties, but also in older, less insulated houses.
Sir Keir took a keen interest in the variety of new skills needed to successfully work on the new production line as well as the job opportunities created. He spent time chatting to employees who had retrained or upskilled to work on the new line and discussed what opportunities this had opened up for them. Sir Keir was interested to learn that these new skills had been developed via a partnership training programme between Vaillant and Chesterfield Technical College.
He was also keen to speak with those new to the industry and went on to meet several apprentices, graduates and interns from across the business to discuss how they felt about being involved in this exciting transformational period. He talked to them about the role they felt they played in helping the UK progress into this new era of heating our homes and how the training support they were receiving from the company was providing them with the opportunity to progress their career in low carbon technologies.
During the visit there was also an open discussion between Sir Keir and the Vaillant management team, regarding how government and industry can work together to develop and support a number of pathways to bridge the skills gap and to ensure that the support is there to enable the right investment in production capacity that will get the UK closer to the net zero targets set.
Henrik Hansen, managing director at Vaillant, UK and Ireland, commented: “We are always willing to demonstrate what we as a company are doing to ensure UK homes can benefit from effective, low carbon heating. This transition is exciting, but it will require long-term thinking, planning and support from government to ensure it is a success. Solid investment in skills, policy and infrastructure must be built into this. There is no silver bullet to the decarbonisation of heat and in the future there will be several technologies available, which can be reviewed for best fit and then designed to work effectively in each individual property. As the first boiler manufacturer in the UK to produce both boilers and heat pumps, we welcomed the opportunity to present the progress being made and to discuss the commitment required to make low carbon heating a reality.”
Sir Keir Starmer, leader of the Labour Party, said: “The transition to low carbon technology is an opportunity to be seized; for business, the creation of jobs, the ambitions of our young people, and to achieve energy security to keep bills down. It’s been invaluable to see Vaillant’s work developing heat pumps and advances in hydrogen.
“To truly grasp the potential benefits, we need innovative businesses like Vaillant, backed by a clear government mission and working in partnership. We’re at a critical juncture for the clean energy sector, which if harnessed as the opportunity it is, will bring enormous reward to the whole country. It’s been invaluable to see work underway and meet people involved in making this change possible.”