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The UK heat and buildings strategy – what can we look forward to?

With £3.9 billion of new funding to be allocated over the next three years1, the UK Government has made the decarbonisation of UK homes and publicly owned buildings a national priority. Mark Wilkins, technologies and training director at Vaillant UK discusses what installers need to know about the UK Heat and Buildings Strategy in 2022 and beyond, to assist homeowners and commercial property owners in making the switch to more sustainable heating solutions.

Mark Wilkins, technologies and training director at Vaillant UK

The Scottish Government published its Heating in Buildings Strategy in early October 2021, followed swiftly by the UK Government’s Heat and Buildings Strategy. Whilst there are some key differences in both strategies, the direction is clear.For us to reach net zero carbon by 2050 (2045 in Scotland), we must decarbonise heat across the majority of building stock.

The heating of 30 million UK homes and buildings currently contributes to 23 per cent of all UK carbon emissions2. Currently under government consultation is a proposal to phase out the installation of new natural gas boilers in on-gas areas from 2035. For those off the main gas grid, a phase out date of 2026 in domestic and small and medium buildings has been proposed; with a target of 2024 in large non-domestic properties.

Understanding these changes will be increasingly important for installers. Not only in terms of having the skills to install these new systems, but also having the required technical knowledge to educate homeowners too.

Support for heat pumps

The Heat and Buildings Strategy builds on the Prime Minister’s 10-point plan for a green industrial revolution, which set out a target of 600,000 heat pump installations a year by 2028.

Heat pumps have existed for many years and are a proven solution that can help decarbonise homes today. In Scandinavian countries and other parts of Europe they are well known and widely adopted. However, up until now they have been little used in the UK. This recent political commitment to invest in heat pumps therefore demonstrates a clear drive to bring the technology into the mainstream.

It’s therefore encouraging, to see a £450 million package has been created for customers looking to switch to heat pumps early. The three-year Boiler Upgrade Scheme goes live later this year (Spring 2022) and homeowners will be able to apply to receive government grants of £5,000 for the purchase of air source heat pumps (ASHP) and biomass boilers. Grants of £6,000 for ground source heat pumps (GSHP) will also be made available.

To further support the update of heat pumps a £60 million Net Zero Innovation Portfolio (NZIP) ‘Heat Pump Ready’ Programme will support the government’s ambition to reduce the costs of heat pumps by at least 25-50% within the next five years. The funding will be used to encourage innovation across the heat pump sector, to make them smaller and easier to install.

As a manufacturer who has invested significantly in this area, we welcome this new funding. Vaillant has manufactured heat pumps since 2006 and have been selling them to the UK market since 2008. This year, to meet anticipated customer demand, we are proudly bringing heat pump manufacturing to our UK factory in Belper, Derbyshire.

Agnostic approach

Although heat pumps are a here and now technology that can help reduce carbon emissions today, they must suit the customers’ requirements whilst considering the property itself. In fact, it’s likely that a mix of low carbon technologies will be needed to help reduce emissions across the country, in the long term.

The government’s investment in heat pumps is encouraging but when you look at the UK’s current infrastructure alongside the diversity of the communities and housing stock, pinning the future of the environment on a single type of fuel or technology is overly restrictive.

There is no ‘silver bullet’, and installers will need to ensure they have the knowledge and understanding and training to be able to carefully assess properties for low carbon technologies, now and in the future.

Upskilling the industry

With strong commitment and financial support from the UK Government, homeowners and commercial property owners will be increasingly interested in low carbon heating solutions in the coming years. And, for installers looking to upskill into low carbon technologies, the opportunities to add additional revenue streams are clear.

At Vaillant, we are already making strides to upskill our base of heating installers with the necessary skills to install heat pumps. However, we recognise that this personal investment means taking time away from the tools, which can impact their bottom lines.

To support this we recently launched a series of training courses that combine on-site learning with theory-based modules that can be taken at home.

The four blended learning courses, accredited by Cert-ain Certification Services, offer heating engineers, industry-accredited training that fits around them. These courses can significantly reduce the training time typically needed from one day per course, to three courses in just two days.

But the responsibility for upskilling our workforce cannot fall solely on manufacturers. That’s why we’re urging the government to take the necessary steps to recognise and incentivise those wishing to embark on the required training to become low carbon installers.

Cutting through the noise

In addition, to investing in training, installers are also able to make use of the valuable resources available from both manufacturers and industry bodies. To this end, we launched our “Decarbonising Home Heating in the UK” white paper in September 2021. Providing a balanced overview of the mix of heating technologies, the informative white paper aims to help installers further their understanding of heat pumps, hydrogen and hybrid heating systems, to ensure they are fully informed on the low carbon heating solutions available, but also so they can recommend them with confidence to customers too.

Vaillant’s “Decarbonising home heating in the UK”white paper is available to download now by visiting: here

 

17 May 2022

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