New report warns that UK is not on track to hit Net Zero targets

The Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Select Committee: Decarbonising heat in homes report, has been published.

The report warns that “the UK will not hit its net zero target if it does not decarbonise residential heating” and “the Government is not yet on track to deliver on its own targets and more urgent changes are required.”

Decarbonising UK heating is understood to be a big task, with Climate Change Committee (CCC) estimating that there are 29 million existing homes that need to be upgraded to low carbon heating systems by 2050.

The report acknowledges that a complication in the race to decarbonisation is the UK’s housing stock, which is one of the oldest and worst insulated in all of Europe, with only 15% of housing being built since 1990.

Key findings

The three pathways for low carbon heating technologies have been established as heat pumps, hydrogen, and/or heat networks, alongside the essential work of increasing energy efficiency through insulation upgrades. The suitability of these heating solutions is dependent on “factors including regional geography, house type, what heating systems are currently in use, and whether existing homes are connected to the gas grid, as well as other changes needed in the home.”

The CCC estimates that an investment of about £250 billion will be needed to fully decarbonise homes by 2050, the equivalent of about £9 billion each year from the late 2020s to 2050. According to the CCC, the total cost of heat decarbonisation in each home will be, on average, under £10,000.

Customer awareness of a transition to net zero is limited. The Heat and Buildings Strategy “did not outline how consumer awareness” and engagement will be increased, but this work is essential.

Darren Jones, Chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, said: “Replacing gas boilers is a huge task and we are not making anywhere near enough progress. As it stands, we will miss our net zero target. The Government must act urgently to help speed up delivery and support bill payers and workers who will be affected by the change.

“Decarbonising heat in our homes will require engineers who know how to install low carbon heating systems in every community across the country. The Government should work with industry and trade unions to support a low carbon heating apprenticeship programme and ensure existing workers get access to re-skilling courses that will support their transition to the new green jobs of the future.”

Reception

The Heat Pump Federation and its members are delighted to see the publication of the Select Committee report, not least because it very much mirrors our own thinking on what needs to be done to decarbonise home heating.

Bean Beanland, the HPF’s Director of Growth & External Affairs said: “Whether on consumer awareness, skills & training, investment, future funding (affordability), the need for urgency, or the need for massive cooperation between both central and local government and industry, we agree, almost without exception, with the Select Committee’s findings and recommendations.”

“Their report makes clear that rapid development of a Heat Decarbonisation Sector Deal must be a priority. This needs to include policy direction for the thirty years through to Net Zero 2050 and a domestic heat technology roadmap that has been developed in full collaboration with industry and crucially consumer groups.  Consumers need to be positively involved in the Net Zero journey.”

Future interventions need to be decades long to deliver the stable policy environment that will allow investment in capacity, training and skills to thrive. The recent Heat Pump Demonstrator programme found that “heat pumps can be successfully installed in homes from every style and era”, but this awareness needs to be coupled with ongoing investment in home energy efficiency to drive down operating costs of all heat technologies.

The call for the Future Homes Standard to be brought forward is very welcome. Avoiding the unnecessary cost of upgrading new build homes will be of massive benefit to consumers. In-home thermal storage and consideration of heat networks are both critical elements in this segment.

Operational costs have to be addressed through the rebalancing of taxation on electricity and fossil fuels that reflects the relative carbon and other emissions, but at every stage, consumer affordability has to be central to policy development so that the transition can be fast, but fair.

Bean Beanland added: “The Government aspirations and the CCC targets for heat pump deployment are challenges that grow day by day, but if this Select Committee report can provide the springboard that launches an immediate redoubling of government effort against all of the recommendations, then the Federation and its members stand ready to share the burden.”

GSHPA

The Ground Source Heat Pump Association, which represents heat pump system designers, contractors and installers across the UK, welcomes the BEIS Select Committee’s report on Heat Decarbonisation.

Laura Bishop, chair of the GSHPA, said: “The Select Committee acknowledges the central importance of heat pumps to decarbonise heating in homes across the UK; without heat pumps, the UK’s Net Zero ambitions will be hard to achieve.  As the Committee points out, the pace of change now needs to pick up and firm policy measures put in place, if the Government’s ambition to see 600,000 heat pumps installed every year by 2028 is to be realised.”

“Undoubtedly, it’s a complex and challenging task but it can be met through specific policy instruments and through greater collaboration with Government – central, devolved, regional and local, the heating industry, Trades Unions and importantly the customer.”

“Households across the country need greater assurance about the cost and environmental benefits of heat pumps, and the practicalities of switching from a gas boiler to a low-carbon heat pump.  Heat pumps are suitable for the majority of homes in the UK.”

“The GSHPA is pleased that the Select Committee has highlighted a number of measures to ramp up the heat pump roll-out, not least the need for a consumer finance scheme, selected grants for consumers and industry, improved training/upskilling of the labour market and a Heat Decarbonisation Sector Deal. These are all measures that the GSHPA has called for, as well as the lifting of the environmental levies on electricity for those using heat pumps.  These environmental levies are inhibiting the adoption of heat pumps and encouraging the continued burning of gas for heating and are undermining the UK’s heat decarbonisation policies.”

“The GSHPA will continue to work closely with Government and all interested parties to deliver the country’s Net Zero ambitions, and the specific ambition to have low-carbon domestic heating in all parts of the UK.”