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CIPHE warns HVAC skill challenges are exacerbating UK fuel poverty

Continuous training and skills programmes across all levels of the heating sector are needed alongside clear government policy to realise affordable, low to no carbon homes

Skills shortages remain a pressing challenge in the heating industry’s overall ability to address the issue of fuel poverty in UK homes, the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering (CIPHE) has warned.

 The institute has said that long-term initiatives to try and transform domestic heat delivery, such the planned decarbonisation of the gas grid and a ban on fossil fuel burning in new homes from 2025, must be backed in the shorter-term through a skilled installer and supply base.

Fuel poor homes are defined as properties where 10 per cent of annual income is spent on powering heating systems. The term is identified by a range of pressure groups as having significant implications for public health, as well as the viability to ensure more efficient homes.

The most recent official government data on fuel poverty warned that some 11 per cent of UK homes could be classed as fuel poor.

CIPHE chief executive Kevin Wellman said heating specialists such as domestic installers therefore had a unique role to determine fuel poverty in homes and to provide advice and support when residents may be suffering from costly or inefficient heating.

He said, “Being vigilant for those who are most vulnerable is important for addressing the symptoms of fuel poverty, but in order to help prevent it from happening in the first place, plumbing and heating engineers also need to ensure they keep abreast of the latest technological and legislative changes.

“It is no exaggeration to suggest that the skills shortage we currently face in our industry is at least partially to blame for the fuel poverty crisis. Incorrectly specified and installed appliances which are not as energy efficient as they should be, or appropriate for their location, increases the burden on those already struggling to pay energy bills.”

Mr Wellman said CIPHE hoped to push the importance of continuous professional development and training at all levels of the plumbing and heating sector, while ensuring sufficient opportunities for apprentices to expand the domestic workforce.

HE added, “Fuel poverty and the skills shortage are intrinsically linked, and rather than wait for a silver bullet solution from the government, we need to act now.”

Mr Wellman warned that uncertainty over the price of fuel and about the broader UK economy, when considered alongside the impacts of climate change, was expected to further exacerbate the causes of fuel poverty.

He added that a major challenge to better address the affordability of heating was an ongoing perception that fuel poverty was solely a housing issue, as opposed to also having significant impacts on public health.

CIPHE said that industry had to work with public sector on ensuring better solutions to make heating affordable and efficient in lower income homes.

Mr Wellman said, “The government must seek to protect these people, and we must push for action in the next budget that helps those who need it most. Only by working together can we stop the unnecessary and highly preventable deaths caused by fuel poverty.”

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