Report highlights role of heat pumps in future UK heat policy

Published:  08 December, 2016

Heat pumps can play a leading role in the future of UK heat among a range of other low carbon measures according to a report from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) – ‘Next steps for UK heat policy’.

The report, which is welcomed by the Heat Pump Association (HPA), focuses on the need to significantly strengthen policy in order to increase the implementation of low carbon measures over the coming decade.

It states that: “Deployment of low-carbon heat cannot wait until the 2030s. Low-regret opportunities exist for heat pumps to be installed in homes that are off the gas grid. New homes can and should be built to be highly energy efficient and designed for low carbon heating systems.”

The HPA believes the domestic Building Regulations do not currently make reasonable allowances for the future provision of low temperature heat emitters that would support the installation of heat pumps in the future, meaning that future replacement costs will remain higher than necessary and act as a further barrier.

The CCC report also recognises that heat pumps remain the leading low-carbon option for buildings not connected to the gas grid, asserting that: “Installation of around 200,000 heat pumps between 2015 and 2020 under our scenarios is consistent with the announced funding to 2020 available under the Renewable Heat Incentive, providing that funding is focused on heat pumps and deployed efficiently. Further funding will be needed for deployment in the 2020s.”

The HPA remains unconvinced that the target of 200,000 units will be met with the scheme in its current guise and argues that changes proposed by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) scheduled for April 2017 are likely to further hinder deployment.

The report goes on to state: “Heat pumps remain a niche option in the UK as previous policies have failed to deliver a significant increase in uptake. However, they are used widely in many other countries and are the primary low carbon option for most UK buildings off the gas grid. Improved building efficiency is an essential part of effective heat pump roll-out.”

The HPA agrees that past and present policies aimed at stimulating the heat pump market have fallen well short of expectations, despite significant investment by heat pump manufacturers and installers.

The HPA also supports the report’s view that funding allocated through the Renewable Heat Incentive to 2020 needs to be properly focused and delivered effectively.

Improving the efficiency of existing heating systems (e.g. by moving to lower flow temperatures) in homes connected to the gas grid through the 2020s can cut bills and emissions, and help to prepare the stock for widespread roll-out of heat pumps after 2030. Wide-scale deployment will rely on a mix of incentive and regulation as well as attributing a direct and proportional cost to carbon dioxide emissions.

In conclusion, the HPA shares the report’s observation that achieving greater heat pump uptake is likely to require an adjustment of subsidy rates or a shift towards upfront funding, which could be accommodated within the existing funding pot.

Beyond 2020, in order to meet targets for decarbonising heat in buildings, funding will need to increase significantly in line with the higher aspirations. 

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