One in ten households need to install a heat pump

heat pump
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One in ten households need to install a heat pump during life of this parliament – five years – to meet UK’s climate obligations, says new research from Nesta.

This would require a 12-fold increase in installations over five years when compared with the last five years, resulting in the installation of 3m more heat pumps and similar systems, and a national programme to electrify home heating in the UK.

Without this, the UK is unlikely to meet its legally binding carbon budgets. The UK installed just an estimated 250,000 heat pumps between 2020 and 2024, while 25.5 million UK homes still use oil or gas boilers.

The findings form part of a new report, published today by the innovation charity Nesta, which estimates that key policy u-turns and delays by the previous government have left the UK around 15% short of the emissions savings from homes needed to meet future carbon budgets. This major gap comes from changes including scrapping higher energy efficiency standards for landlords and delaying the phase out of boilers in off-gas grid homes from 2026 to 2035.

Designed as an immediate plan for the new government, the report – Delivering clean heat: a policy plan – sets out the most comprehensive roadmap to date to decarbonise the UK’s housing stock.

The priorities is says the new government should start working on in its first 100 days:

  • Rebalancing energy bills to stop outdated taxes and levies driving up electricity prices relative to gas, so that the lifetime cost of heat pumps is equal to that of gas boilers;

  • Creating a new national agency to administer government heat and efficiency schemes and support local authorities with the heat transition;

  • Providing certainty by swiftly ruling out hydrogen for home heating and clarifying goals for phasing out new boilers;

  • Launching new pilots of neighbourhood delivery schemes which help many homes in an area switch to low-carbon heat at the same time.

Madeleine Gabriel, director of sustainable future at Nesta, said:

The new UK Government will need to reverse the drift away from energy policies that ensured we would meet the UK’s net zero targets. It has inherited a big problem on home heating and will need to take urgent action.

The good news is that it is possible to change course on the current approach and much can be accomplished rapidly, including setting out proposals to rebalance energy bills to reduce the relatively high cost of electricity. This would stop people paying an unnecessary premium for going green.

But it will require a major switching of gears to accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels. We know that rapidly transforming home heating is possible – we did it in the 60s and 70s and we can do it again now.

Marcus Shepheard, co-author, sustainable future policy manager at Nesta and former lead analyst on buildings at the Climate Change Committee, said:

Delivery has to be the top priority for this Government. We need to rapidly scale up the heat transition to get the UK back on track. If we get this right the prize is huge and transformative. It means energy security for the country as a whole, and better, warmer homes that are cheaper to run for millions of people. The new Government should grasp the opportunity – there is consensus on what needs to be done but there is no time for delay.

Read the report in full: nesta.org.uk/report/delivering-clean-heat-a-policy-plan/