UK Government severely lagging behind its heat pump targets
Published: 23 November 2023
A new report, led by UofG housing experts, exposes the intricate challenges hindering the adoption of heat pumps in the UK. Only 55,000 installations are occurring yearly as of mid-2023, considerably behind the UK government's annual target of 600,000.
A new report, led by University of Glasgow housing experts, exposes the intricate challenges hindering the adoption of heat pumps in the UK. Only 55,000 installations are occurring yearly as of mid-2023, considerably behind the UK government's annual target of 600,000.
The report, by the UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence (CaCHE), dissects the complexities contributing to the disparity between government targets and installations before presenting a range of systemic solutions for a more sustainable transition.
Heat pumps are a cornerstone of the government’s decarbonisation agenda in the UK. The electrification of domestic heating, underwritten by the installation of ground, air and water-source heat pumps is expected to reduce the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions by around 15 – 17%.
Author Dr Nicholas Harrington of CaCHE emphasised the urgency of addressing the critical issues outlined in the study: "This report reveals the nuanced web of challenges affecting the widespread adoption of heat pumps in the UK. By understanding the feedback loops and barriers identified, we can tailor effective policy interventions. Crucially, the relative pricing of electricity to gas emerges as a pivotal factor. If we can address this dynamic, we open the door to a more seamless and cost-effective transition to sustainable heating solutions."
In the report, Dr Harrington identifies four critical feedback loops which can frustrate heat pump adoption.
Regulatory Framework Challenges: Existing regulations impact the quality of the UK's housing stock; fabric issues necessitate pre-installation fabric upgrades in some cases, to avoid increased running costs; and the price of electricity relative to gas complicates regulatory opportunities, especially in fuel poverty contexts.
New Build/Developer Paradox: Limited heat pump installers affect developer confidence in large scale HP rollout; developer schemes influence heat pump demand, sector growth, and installer supply.
Boiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS) Limitations: The BUS grant is insufficient if additional fabric and system upgrades are required; many owners are unaware of the pre-application of necessary additional upgrades; lack of coverage deters owners who require additional upgrades; and low BUS grant uptake sends mixed signals back to policy maker.
Electricity vs. Gas Dilemma: Consumer decisions are influenced by electricity and gas price differentials; shifting levies onto gas may worsen social tenant fuel poverty; and concerns over fuel poverty limit policymaker options.
First published: 23 November 2023