Heat pumps significant for UK Heat Policy

May 4, 2020 winter-picto

In a report to Government, heat pumps are proposed to play a significant role in future UK heat policy but there are some hurdles to overcome.

In order to meet the 2050 targets of the Climate Change Act and maintain the UK commitment to the International action under the Paris Agreement it will be necessary to all but eliminate carbon emissions from the heating and hot water production in UK buildings.

On 13 October 2016 the Committee for Climate Change (CCC) published its recommendations to Government in a publication titled: Next Steps for UK Heat Policy. This report sets out the strategy required to meet 2050 targets for Carbon Reduction and gives a sound endorsement for the use of Heat pumps for low carbon heating.

The report states :“Heating and hot water for UK buildings make up around 40% of our (UK) energy consumption and 20% of our greenhouse gas emissions. It will be necessary to largely eliminate these emissions by around 2050 to meet the targets of the Climate Change Act." 

The Government needs a credible new strategy and a much stronger policy framework for buildings decarbonisation.

The report also states that: “The main options for the decarbonisation of buildings on the gas grid in the 2030's and 2040's are heat pumps and low-carbon hydrogen” but it notes too that previous policies have failed to deliver any significant increase in the uptake of heat pumps and it is this that needs to be addressed in the short to mid term as low carbon Hydrogen will need a lot more development and investment.

Heat pumps remain the leading low-carbon option for buildings not connected to the gas grid where they are displacing oil, petroleum gas (Lpg) or resistive electric heating, but they are also an option for those that are connected to it, of which it is estimated that there are around 10 million suitable properties and a further 10 million could be made suitable with wall and loft insulation.

‘The scenario to meet the 5th carbon budget includes the cost effective uptake of 1.2 million heat pumps in homes off the gas grid, as well as a further 20% of non residential heating by 2030, and initially the roll out could involve the use of Hybrid heat pumps’ which are typically a heat pump with a small boiler to provide back up heating for the coldest days and also the option to provide high-grade heat for domestic hot water.

The challenges in the uptake of heat pumps, even to 2030, are the upgrading of electric networks to accommodate extra load from properties that have moved over from combustion fuels as well as the requirement to coordinate the energy efficiency improvements within the properties as well as build a robust support industry to develop confidence within the end user to invest in the technology.

Hopefully ministers and policy makers will now close the gap between their aspirations and their policies and put some sound, feasible strategies in place that will not only lower emissions but also bring some welcome long-term consistency and confidence back to the industry as a whole.