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Committee Warns Heat Pumps Exclusively for Wealthy Individuals

The government is facing a ‘significant’ challenge in increasing the number of trained engineers required to support an elevenfold increase in heat pump installations.

An influential committee has raised concerns that most households benefiting from heat pump subsidies are from affluent groups.

On Monday, a government report warned that the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ) faces issues with its current process for households seeking to decarbonize their homes, citing it as “complex and confusing.”

The House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts (PAC) has expressed doubts that government net zero home grants are being utilized mainly by wealthier households.


“We are concerned that the majority of households benefiting from the Government’s £7,500 Boiler Upgrade Scheme grant may come from more affluent backgrounds, as they are more likely to afford the additional costs and may have opted for a heat pump even without the grant,” the PAC report stated.

“We have yet to see evidence that the progress made aligns with its ambitions. Consumers continue to encounter complexity and confusion, hindering their ability to make informed decisions about installing a heat pump,” it added.

“A more realistic approach is necessary to understand consumer demand levels, enhance public awareness of heat pumps, and collaborate with the industry to make heat pumps more cost-effective,” the report emphasized.

The UK has committed to achieving net zero by 2050, with the Conservative government outlining a strategy named “Build Back Greener” to decarbonize all sectors of the economy. Heat pumps play a crucial role in the government’s plan to attain net zero carbon emissions by 2050, with a target of 600,000 heat pump installations by 2028.

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The Boiler Upgrade Scheme, launched in April 2022, provides £7,500 grants to encourage property owners to replace existing fossil fuel heating with heat pumps, which run on electricity and operate by extracting energy from the air or ground, similar to a fridge in reverse.

An average heat pump currently costs four times more than a gas boiler, and due to electricity prices, running a heat pump may also be more expensive.

The average cost of different types of heat pumps are as follows: £13,333 for an air source heat pump, £26,000 for a ground source heat pump, £27,355 for a shared ground loop ground source heat pump, and £16,000 for a wood-fueled biomass boiler.

According to a report from The Epoch Times, as of the end of March, grants totaling £138.9 million had been distributed through the Boiler Upgrade Scheme, benefiting 23,871 applicants, with air source heat pumps being the most popular choice.

Skills Gap

The PAC has identified a significant skills gap and highlighted that the government faces a “considerable challenge” in increasing the number of trained heat pump installers to support the significant increase in heat pump installations.

Currently, 7,000 heat pump installers have been trained, and DESNZ reports that it is progressing towards its goal of training 12,000 by 2025. Nevertheless, the Heat Pump Association estimates that by 2028, around 33,700 trained heat pump installers will be required to meet DESNZ’s installation target.

DESNZ also recognized the necessity of retraining approximately 110,000 existing gas heating engineers to enable them to install heat pumps.

The committee found that DESNZ does not have a single measure of the number of installed heat pumps, relying instead on data from government grant schemes and heat pump sales figures. In 2022 alone, around 55,000 heat pumps were sold.

Projected Costs

As outlined in its Heat Pump Investment Roadmap strategy released in April of the previous year, to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050, the UK must decarbonize the heating of more than 30 million homes nationwide within a little over 25 years.

The UK’s Climate Change Committee forecasts that by 2050, low-carbon sources will provide all heating in British homes, with heat pumps covering 52 percent of this demand.

If the scheme is extended to cover all 23 million homes currently utilizing gas boilers, it could cost £115 billion, according to a study conducted by the TaxPayers’ Alliance, a UK organization advocating for low taxes.

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