Industry must scale up fast to deliver Boris’s big heat pump plan

The Prime Minister’s hugely ambitious plans for heat pumps must be backed by a major training programme and comprehensive technical support, according to manufacturer Lochinvar.

The Banbury-based company welcomed the 10-point plan announced by Boris Johnson for a ‘green industrial revolution’ that he hopes will create up to 250,000 new jobs in low carbon and renewable sectors.

He pledged to tackle energy efficiency in hospitals, schools, and other public buildings through the £1bn Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme and extended the Green Homes Grant for homeowners by a year until March 2022. Heat pumps were highlighted by the Prime Minister as a key technology for delivering many of the government’s decarbonisation goals and he wants the industry to be installing 600,000 a year by 2028.

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) had already set a target of one million a year by the 2030’s towards an eventual total of 19 million to achieve the government’s 2050 net zero target. However, according to the Heat Pump Association (HPA), just 30,000 will be installed this year rising to around 70,000 in 2021. Industry estimates suggest more than 17,000 new heat pump installers will be needed over the next decade if the government’s targets are to be met.

“The Prime Minister’s faith in heat pump technology is a huge morale boost to the industry,” said Lochinvar’s sales director Liam Elmore. “However, we are going to have to scale up very fast to turn vision into reality.”

As well as recruiting more people, there will also need to be much better awareness of how the technology works to ensure installations continue to achieve high performance and reduced carbon emissions throughout their operating life, Lochinvar added.

“The building services sector has talked about the benefits a ’whole system’ approach for many years, but it has not yet been universally adopted because it requires everyone in the supply chain to look for long-term value rather than short-term capital cost savings,” said Liam. “That complete approach is particularly important in heat pump projects.

“Heat pumps can achieve CoP’s comfortably above four and five depending on the application and climatic conditions, but only if they are properly designed, installed, commissioned and maintained. There are particular challenges around designing heating systems that operate at low temperatures and this is not widely understood – even by many already in the industry,” he added.

Illustrating the ability of heat pumps to work as part of integrated whole building – and even whole community – systems will also be important, according to Lochinvar. Heat pumps work very well in tandem with other energy efficient technologies like condensing boilers and water heaters to maximise energy and carbon savings – and can be particularly effective where building owners are looking to upgrade their systems. Liam Elmore believes heat pumps could play an even bigger part in reducing carbon emissions if they are also used more widely in distributed heat networks for homes, public sector buildings, shops, offices, hospitals, and many others.

“Properly supported, heat pumps have an exciting and potentially unlimited future as an enabling technology able to unlock major system savings across a range of buildings and facilities,” he said.

10-point plan