In a letter to Energy Minister Kwasi Kwarteng, the Chairman of the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC), Rt Hon Philip Dunne MP, reflects on evidence the Committee heard during its short inquiry on Technological Innovations and Climate Change: Heat pumps.
While the Government’s ambition to install 600,000 heat pumps a year by 2028 is commendable to meet net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, the Committee identified a number of barriers that could stifle the plans. The Government’s proposed consultation early next year will offer the opportunity to hear ideas and concerns, but the Committee argues that clear direction is needed for industry given the short timeframe in which Ministers are seeking to deliver substantial increases in the pace of installations.
In written evidence and during the one-off evidence session the Committee held, witnesses explained that the supply chain is not currently equipped to install the numbers of heat pumps required. Sufficient production and high-quality installation are key to making the roll-out happen, and while the initial growth in heat pump installers will come from reskilling existing gas and electrical engineers, there needs to be a concerted attempt to bring new, skilled entrants into the market. The EAC is therefore urging the Government to fund a dedicated training programme to support a long-term strategy for education and training in green jobs.
The Green Homes Grant will support the take-up of heat pumps in UK homes, but industry needs the confidence to invest in skills and resource which is unlikely given the short window the scheme is currently expected to operate in. Therefore, it should be extended beyond March 2022 to become a multi-year scheme, which could help open the heat pump market.
Aside from the Green Homes Grant scheme, the heat pumps must be affordable for consumers. However, the Government has placed low carbon policy costs on the electricity side of consumer bills. As a result, the cost of electricity is roughly four times more expensive than gas. The Committee was advised that reviewing the policy costs across gas and electricity could significantly improve the customer case for heat pumps, making them cheaper to run than gas boilers in many more domestic settings.