Heat and Buildings Strategy: additional voices

Heat and Buildings Strategy: additional voices

Through its recently announced Heat and Buildings Strategy, the Government has set out its plan to incentivise the installation of low carbon heating systems in a “simple, fair and cheap way as people come to replace their old boilers over the coming decade”. In an article from PBM’s December edition, we take a look at the feedback from the industry.

With heat in buildings being one of the largest sources of UK carbon emissions, accounting for 21% of the total, there is an urgent need to deliver a mix of new, low carbon heating solutions to meet the UK’s legally-binding climate change target by 2050.

In its much-anticipated Heat and Buildings Strategy, the Government says it is setting out more than £3.9 billion of new funding through a variety of initiatives including the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund, the Home Upgrade Grant scheme, the Boiler Upgrade Scheme and the Heat Networks Transformation Programme in addition to reducing carbon emissions from public buildings through the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme.

Through the £450 million, three-year Boiler Upgrade Scheme, new grants of £5,000 will be available from April next year to encourage homeowners to install more efficient, low carbon heating systems as the Government continues to work with the industry to ensure that solutions such as heat pumps “cost the same to buy and run as fossil fuel boilers by 2030”.

It is widely considered that any transition to low-carbon heating will require a diverse mix of technology such as heat pumps and heat networks, whilst the Government states it will take a decision on the potential role of hydrogen-fuelled appliances in heating homes by 2026 by learning from the Hydrogen Village pilot.

The Heat and Buildings Strategy announcement has been broadly welcomed by the sector, yet many argue it does not go far enough. PBM outlines some of the reactions…

Neil Sawers, Grant UK’s Commercial Technical Manager, commented: “Grant UK welcomes this step on the journey to net zero, however there are some barriers to overcome before we can truly begin to roll out some of the Government’s proposals.

“Positive steps towards resolving the current skills shortage are being taken with both the CIPHE Low Temperature Heating Course in addition to the Heat Pump Association’s LCL Heat Pump Training course. It is imperative that both the Government’s funding initiatives and retraining/up-skilling of the workforce work in parallel.”

“We are concerned that as yet there has been no announcement regarding other off-gas heating alternatives, such as biofuels (HVO) and hybrid heating which would have a major impact on reducing carbon emissions and are more practical in terms of an immediate roll out.”

Welcoming the announcement, Iain Bevan, Commercial Manager of Heating & Renewables at Daikin UK, picked up the point: “We look forward to finding out more about who will be eligible and which sustainable heating systems are covered. We believe that hybrid systems, where a heat pump works alongside a gas boiler, should be included as they are a vital stepping-stone for those who are new to renewable technology, and can still reduce household CO2 emissions by as much as 55% compared to a traditional gas boiler.”

Russell Dean, Head of Residential Heating and Ventilation at Mitsubishi Electric added: “To ensure the costs continue to drop for the consumer we must now see a concerted effort to train up a nationwide network of installers that can deliver on this new opportunity. This can be done by upskilling gas boiler engineers and installers to ensure they are not left behind as the country moves towards a growth in green jobs and heat pumps receive the backing of the big energy network providers.”

Karen Boswell OBE, Managing Director of Baxi Heating, said: “This important document details a roadmap for the decarbonisation of heat which the industry can, and must, support. We firmly believe that all viable technologies have a place, including electrification, hydrogen, and deployment of low carbon heat networks. BEIS is wise to leave these options open as it is abundantly clear that no single solution will deliver net zero.”

Mark Wilkins from Vaillant continued: “We welcome the long-awaited Heat and Buildings Strategy, setting out further direction and vision for our low carbon future. Time is of the essence when it comes to decarbonisation, and heat pumps are the best way to decarbonise today.

“Hydrogen will be a low carbon solution, but more tests need to be carried out before we can successfully roll out hydrogen for heating. In the future, there will be a mix of both hydrogen-fuelled boilers and heat pumps as there is no silver bullet to lowering carbon emissions of the UK’s diverse housing stock.”

Worcester Bosch CEO Carl Arntzen stated: “Although the Government’s Heat and Buildings Strategy does look like a clear indication of ongoing investment, it doesn’t go far enough. When considering a heat pump there are many factors to assess which are not considered here, such as the property’s suitability.

“A home may need to be adapted to accommodate a heat pump, such as resizing radiators and making space for hot water cylinders, which carry cost implications. Therefore, the proposed grants may help with the cost to purchase a heat pump, but there will still be costly investment required from homeowners in existing properties. As for boilers, the strategy does not refer to any legislation behind a boiler ban, so it’s not surprising that there is confusion among installers and homeowners.

“Whilst it is encouraging to see that hydrogen is still on the agenda and is referred to within the Strategy, it is a shame to see that a decision around hydrogen won’t be made until five years from now. With hydrogen-ready boilers already successfully trialled, they could be a strong alternative to fossil fuel boilers on the market today — yet this strategy seems to omit them.”

Brian Berry, CEO of the Federation of Master Builders, added a perspective for the wider industry, declaring: “The Heat and Buildings Strategy needs to set out a bold and long-term plan of action to tackle the impact of our homes on the climate. Unfortunately, it is not looking encouraging. Grants for heat pumps is a step in the right direction so we begin to reduce our reliance on polluting and volatile fossil fuels, but incentives are also needed to make our existing homes better insulated.

“The Government appears to be only listening to one half of the story. If there is no detail in the Strategy on how we can address the megatonnes of carbon lost through the leaky walls and roofs of our homes, it will have failed and the benefits of installing heat pumps risk being lost.

“Without a long-term national retrofit strategy, including a proper skills plan and communications campaign, regular consumers won’t know what action they need to take, nor feel it’s within their grasp; and industry won’t take the long-term investment decisions needed to be ready to deliver.”

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