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'Urgent changes' required for home heat decarbonisation as government off track to meet targets, BEIS select committee finds

A heat decarbonisation sector deal should be introduced to scale up heat pumps, the select committee said. Image: Western Power Distribution

A heat decarbonisation sector deal should be introduced to scale up heat pumps, the select committee said. Image: Western Power Distribution

Decarbonising residential heating is a difficult task due to the scale, complexity and cost of the challenge, the BEIS select committee has found.

In a new report following an inquiry by the select committee, it has detailed how the government is "not yet on track" to deliver on its own residential heating decarbonisation targets, with more urgent changes required.

Chief among its recommendations for the government is that it should work with industry, consumers and affected workers to produce an effective roadmap detailing how the transition to low carbon heating will take place.

This should include what this would mean for different households in different parts of the country, and for workers whose jobs may be affected in existing carbon intensive parts of the heating sector.

It should clearly set out the development, scale up and integration milestones of different low carbon heating technologies, and the associated interventions, such as energy efficiency upgrades, and initiatives required to hit heating targets in the UK, and should be published by September 2022.

This is because the Heat and Buildings Strategy – published in October 2021 – “failed to provide sufficient policy detail or clarity on delivery”.

Indeed, the Boiler Upgrade Scheme, which was announced in the strategy and included plans to offer grants of £5,000 for the installation of heat pumps from April 2022, is "not of the scale that is required to meet the government’s targets of decarbonising residential heat", the select committee concluded.

A heat decarbonisation sector deal should be introduced to sufficiently scale up the heat pump market to meet the government’s 600,000 heat pump installations per year by 2028 target, as well as to develop and innovate other low carbon heating technologies.

The government must also outline what contingencies it has in place to make sure that the heat pump target is fulfilled, with the select committee stating it must have integrated and coherent policies such as an effective energy efficiency programme.

Indeed, the select committee made reference to the Green Homes Grant energy efficiency scheme, stating that while it was a welcomed initiative, the way it was designed by the government as a short-term stimulus and a “hastily developed, outsource scheme, was misguided”.

The select committee went on to say it is now vital that lessons are learned from the Green Homes Grant, and that the government should prioritise the development and launch of a replacement for the scheme to be delivered locally through regional and local government instead of centrally.

The select committee’s inquiry also identified gaps in regulation and existing policy that it said obfuscate the delivery of low carbon heating systems. It pointed to how implementing the Future Homes Standard - which will require carbon reductions in new build houses - in 2025 will require homes built between then and now to be upgraded to low carbon heating systems, with this creating additional and unnecessary associated costs.

As such, it is recommending that the government brings forward the implementation of the Future Homes Standard to 2023.

Guy Newey, strategy and performance director at Energy Systems Catapult, said that better incentives to switch to low carbon heating technologies are "essential" to create confidence for companies looking to invest in new consumer-friendly offers.

These incentives could include introducing carbon standards for the emissions per household across a supplier’s customer base, or a credits scheme linked to carbon performance of a building measured through smart meters.

"Uptake of low carbon heating will only happen at the scale we need if solutions are as good or better than the alternatives," he said.

A plan should also be put in place for off gas grid properties, with the select committee finding that electrification is the only option for these properties. Any programme should be undertaken in conjunction with energy efficiency measures.

The current carbon intensive heating sector workforce should also be given the opportunity to access the training and education required to transition to the low carbon heating sector.

Last month, the Energy Systems Catapult found that skills shortages in four job roles - including low carbon heating installation - and three key sector challenges are holding back the decarbonisation of residential heating.

Meanwhile, last summer the Heat Pump Association launched a training course aiming to equip the heating industry with the skills needed to deliver low carbon technologies to British households.

Bean Beanland, the Heat Pump Federation's director of growth and external affairs, said: “The government aspirations and the CCC targets for heat pump deployment are challenges that grow day by day, but if this Select Committee report can provide the springboard that launches an immediate redoubling of government effort against all of the recommendations, then the Federation and its members stand ready to share the burden.”

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