HPA Blog for CIBSE from Futurebuild 2020

Heat Pumps: Essential to heating emission targets, NOW!


You can always find reasons not to do something! However, sometimes not taking action is not an option and this is the case with climate change. Yet there is a solution which can significantly contribute to huge reductions on carbon (& NOx & SOx etc) emissions from one of the largest emitters of carbon: heating systems. This is a technology that is available right now and in fact been around for decades!

With electricity grid carbon factors less than half what they were when the 2006 building regulations were drafted, and continuing to reduce, the ultra-low emission credentials of electrically driven heat pumps is undeniable, and therefore it is unsurprising that the Climate Change Committee places its emphasis on heat pumps to deliver the ‘lion’s share’ of carbon reduction in the heating sector. They are recommending 1 million heat pumps to be installed annually by the mid 2030s and 19 million in place by 2050. And yes, if you look closely, these figures recognise that while heat pumps will play a major role they will not be the exclusive measure since there are some 27 million dwellings now and could be 35 million by 2050 if we build at current rates. 

Hence the key questions are: can the industry manufacture the number of heat pumps required and can it provide the number of suitably competent installers to meet demand? Those who do not want the heat pump industry to provide this readily available solution right now argue it’s impossible. However, the Heat Pump Association (HPA) has issued a Roadmap that dispels yet another urban myth about heat pumps. The HPA recognises that the solution lays in partnership between Industry and Government, and particularly how they ensure familiarity and quality assurance with the consumer.

The Roadmap details how the UK is just a tiny part of a massive production output in the EU and globally. One million heat pumps are sold annually in the EU alone, meanwhile millions of reverse cycle heat pumps (‘air conditioning units’) are sold annually around the globe. Production can be tailored to meet such a demand if (and it’s a big ‘if’), the government give adequate ‘ummph’ to their legislation and a modicum of notice (say 2-3 years max). 

The other argument put forward is that there are insufficient competent heat pump installers to meet demand if the 2020 Building Regulations were based on heat pumps (but not mandating their use). However, the HPA Roadmap demonstrates there will be a gradual increase in demand for heat pumps starting with new-builds since developers have huge land banks with Building Regulations approved and frozen. Hence even if the 2020 Building Regulations were based on heat pumps and came into force late 2020 or early 2021 demand would not be immediate and would take some 3-5 years.

Furthermore, the HPA is about to publish a paper on Meeting the Demand for Low Emission Heating Installers, which demonstrates its members alone have the training capacity to train 7,000+ installers per year and predicted deployment growth figures never exceed this figure per annum.

What about standards? And auditing? The Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) is repositioning itself to address these issues and in a way that facilitates this growth while keeping close in mind assurance for consumers.

Waiting till 2025, as heat pump ‘phobes’ would like to suggest, to make Part L Building regulations centred around heat pumps, will have serious consequences to emission reduction measures and result in increasing the legacy of approximately 240,000 houses built each year that will need expensive retrofits. This means a five year delay would mean 1.25 million more homes would need expensive retrofits at a typical cost of £2,000-5,000 (depending what renewable ready measures are put in place in the 2020 regulations) and hence a significant unnecessary cost to the overall economy.

So, if this is all ‘sorted’, what next? Industry needs Government to give some very clear signals as to the future and really challenge industry with maximum emission targets to provide ultra-low emission solutions. This needs to start immediately because such ultra-low emission technologies are available now.


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