Less than 2% of the heat pumps needed to decarbonise the UK’s homes are currently being installed by the government.
For the UK to meet its net zero by 2050 target, at least 12 million homes across England alone will need to be retrofitted with heat pumps and energy efficiency measures, such as insulation, according to think ank IPPR.
In a new report, it argues that the government must establish a comprehensive Home Improvement Plan to drive decarbonisation. This should include an investment fund to help provide grants covering at least 50% of the cost of the retrofit.
It warns that while the recent announcement of £3 billion for energy efficiency is welcome, it is only the first step with much more needed.
Across England, the IPPR found that it would cost closer to £10.6 billion a year – split between public and private funding equally using a blended funding model – until 2030 to achieve the rollout needed. From 2030 to 2050, a further £7 billion a year will be needed to ensure the pace and scale of action needed.
Joshua Emden, IPPR research fellow, called the government's energy efficiency announcement a “very welcome step in the right direction".
“But we also need to focus on scaling up the low-carbon technologies that will heat our homes, not just making them more efficient. A new Home Improvement Plan would maximise the potential for savings on energy bills by going further on the good work that’s been done on energy efficiency and pairing this with low-carbon heating technologies like heat pumps.”
Funding will be key, as more than two in five adults in the UK who considered installing energy improvement measures but didn’t cited the high price as the reason for doing so. Reducing carbon emissions should be funded through taxation according to 30% of adults, while 19% said that it should be funded through borrowing and just 10% through increased energy bills.
Additionally the government must establish a clear ‘technology pathway’ to allow for supply chains to develop and processes to be scaled up, which would help drive down the cost of installation further.
Heat pumps should be the dominant technology, the IPPR argued, over other competing options such as hydrogen. The technology is readily available, and does not rely on imports of natural gas in large quantities.
Jonathan Webb, IPPR research fellow, said: “A low-carbon heat strategy built around heat pumps would provide a tech-ready plan for decarbonising our homes. Adopting this technology now, and supporting its uptake, will allow industry to focus on the challenge ahead and enable the training of workers to begin in earnest. This will unlock job creation and allow the government to drastically accelerate the decarbonisation of our homes.”
In England alone, pursuing the IPPR’s Home Improvement Plan could help create 275,000 urgently needed jobs. The thinktank calls on the government to invest in a large-scale training programme for clean heat, which would both facilitate the rollout and secure job creation.
Additional suggestions for driving decarbonisation at home include ratcheting up the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards over time to make private renters meet an EPC rating of at least B by 2030 and scaling up a dedicated advice service to help households with applying for support.
The report follows growing calls to accelerate the decarbonisation of the homes sector, with the Energy Institute annual Energy Barometer highlighting that low-carbon heating was an area of particular concern. Similarly, the Renewable Energy Agency called on the government to increase funding for low-carbon heat in its key priorities for a green recovery.