Government pledge to be first G7 nation to commit to eliminate carbon emissions by 2050 must spur clearer policy on heat if these aims are to be viable, a range of trade bodies argue
The heat pump industry has argued that the government’s commitment to ensure the UK achieves net zero carbon emissions by 2050 will require a drastic rethink of both short and longer-term heating policy.
The Heat Pump Association (HPA) trade body said that it welcomed the UK’s decision to become the first G7 industrialised nation to set a formal target to eliminate its carbon emissions within just over three decades. However, the organisation added that much clearer policy and greater support to pushing more widespread uptake of “ultra low-carbon heating systems” was vital to these ambitions.
Outgoing prime minister Theresa May announced earlier this week that legislation was being introduced to tighten the UK’s existing 2050 emissions reductions targets. These had previously committed to reduce the nation’s carbon footprint by 80 per cent of 1990 levels.
A statement from the HPA in response has called for much greater support for heat pump adoption to ensure meeting these tougher targets was realistic within the 31-year timeframe. The association noted that government has stated that any significant shift to heat pumps from condensing boilers in UK buildings was impractical, but said electric heating solutions were already on the market to allow for immediate take up.
HPA chair Graham Wright said the industry was now in need of clear signals and policy on the current pathway to introduce low-carbon heat, such as in the role heat pumps can play.
He said, “The industry needs to prepare for increased production and training with a degree of certainty that is only achievable by clear policy and distinct time frames. The technology is widely available, but more structured training is needed to implement it.”
“The HPA is ready to help government raise awareness among installers and customers and is already planning to set up its own training courses in the near future.”
What role for Gas?
Chancellor Philip Hammond announced in this year’s Spring Statement that government was committing to end fossil fuel heating in new buildings by 2025. Officials have confirmed that this would mean existing gas heating appliances would no longer be acceptable for use in any new buildings within six years.
It is less clear however among policy makers and industry as to how exactly a revised grid - one making use of greener gasses that could potentially include hydrogen or biomethane - may help the UK meets its targets.
The Ground Source Heat Pump Association (GSHPA), an organisation representing a range of engineering and appliance specialists, said deployment of low carbon heat technologies had remained limited under the government’s previous 80 per cent reduction target.
With the majority of the UK still reliant on natural gas for heat, the association said a stronger policy framework had to be implemented to set out the general direction to ensure buildings could meet the needs of users while in line with the net zero goals.
GSHPA chair Ben Beanland argued that focuses on ensuring more energy efficiency buildings would play an important role in any net zero strategy, but were not alone enough to fully eliminate emissions from buildings.
The organisation cited heat pump technology already on the market as an example of viable lower carbon heat that can benefit from efforts to further decarbonise the electricity grid.
Mr Beanland said, ““Existing policies to encourage the take-up of low carbon heating are not delivering change at the required pace and need to change if the 2050 target is to be achieved.
“The GSHPA urges government to bring in a new support framework for low carbon heating beyond 2021, including a capital grant for the installation of heat pumps, with a target of 1 million installations a year by 2035, and make the energy efficiency retrofit of existing homes a national infrastructure priority.”