Industry groups and businesses have welcomed the Government’s announcement of a fund to support energy-saving improvements to UK homes - including heat pumps - alongside calls for further measures to follow.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak outlined the investment as part of a wider recover from the Covid-19 crisis and will see households able to access subsidies for upgrades such as heat pumps, insulation, double glazing, lighting or new boilers.
The grant scheme is expected to be launched in September via an online application process featuring accredited suppliers and will see two-thirds of the cost of eligible projects met by the government, up to a maximum of £5,000. The limit for poorer households is £10,000 and these homeowners may not be required to make a contribution.
Graham Wright, Chairman of the Heat Pump Association (HPA), said: “There is a lot of detail to iron out here, however, it appears there is something for landlords, homeowners and those who campaign on behalf of low-income households. Although the amount of money is smaller than that promised for Home Upgrade Grants in the manifesto, it is being brought forward and should be spent sooner with bigger impact than the sector could have hoped for.”
Regarding the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme that will offer grants to public sector bodies, including schools and hospitals, to fund both energy efficiency and low carbon heat upgrades, Wright said: “The amount of funding here is significant. With local authorities and other public bodies engaged in a race to declare a climate emergency in recent years, I would expect strong interest in funding that could be used to achieve these ambitions. It will be interesting to see how this funding could be combined, for example with Renewable Heat Incentive payments or the Heat Networks Investment Project.”
Max Halliwell, Communications Manager for Residential Heating at Mitsubishi Electric, said: "The announcement signals that the government has heard and understands the role that renewable heating, power and green measures will have in helping build Britain back up post the Covid-19 crisis.
"The measures outlined go some way to addressing this. In addition to these measures, the installation of renewable heating technologies, such as heat pumps, up and down the country will not only help homeowners reduce their own carbon emissions from home heating, but provide valuable jobs creation as plumbers, installers, manufacturers and apprentices upskill and reskill in a technology that is going to be vital for future homes.
"Considering the aspirational targets that have been discussed by the Committee for Climate Change to have a million heat pumps installed by 2030, the UK heat pump market could play a considerable part in the country’s economic recovery.
“However it’s important to note that the ambition needs to grow. We need to rapidly move on to a wider expansion of this for the many, many off-grid households dependent on oil, LPG and other properties using aging gas systems elsewhere, if we are to tackle the 40% of UK carbon emissions generated by home heating.”
Angela McGinlay, Managing Director, Daikin UK, described the news as a "step in the right direction'' but said she would be looking for more support in the Chancellor’s autumn statement.
She said: “It’s good to see homes at the heart of this new eco-package. New incentives will lead more UK homeowners to explore renewable, green alternatives to fossil fuel heating and ensure technologies such as heat pumps are rightly recognised as part of the mainstream solution to decarbonising our built environment
“With the planned phase out of fossil fuel boilers from new homes after 2025, this package was needed to provide a boost to the much-needed reduction of carbon emissions from the UK’s existing housing stock.
“But if the government is to truly live up to its rhetoric of ‘bouncing back better’ then it will need to go much further. France’s recently announced eco-spending package is £13bn, Germany’s £36bn and Italy’s generous ‘eco bonus’ tax breaks. Heat pumps are just one of a myriad of technologies and measures included all fighting over the UK’s relatively paltry pot.
“Today is a step in the right direction. We’ll be looking for more come the autumn statement.”
Bean Beanland, Chairman of the Ground Source Heat Pump Association and founder member of the Heat Pump Federation, said: “It’s hugely significant that the Chancellor has acknowledged the important role that the “green economy” can play as part of the country’s post-Covid recovery.
“The heat pump industry will readily work with Government to deliver a high value investment plan that will get the UK moving to reduce carbon and greenhouse gas emissions, decarbonise heat and create new skilled jobs up and down the country. Our members and our sector’s new training programmes, worked up with industry-wide collaboration, can ensure the highest quality deployment, provide upskilling for existing fossil fuel engineers and technicians and apprenticeship opportunities, and deliver a lasting legacy of near zero emissions heating and cooling in our homes and workplaces.”
“All that said, we ask Government to provide the heat pump sector with a clear and consistent policy framework that will enable our members, the wider supply chain and, crucially, the commercial customers and homeowners, to invest their money with confidence. This is a golden opportunity to contribute to the two biggest challenges of our time - the economic recovery and climate change, and is one that we cannot afford to waste. Heat pumps are a proven technology, and their deployment can be scaled up if the right long-term strategic polices are put in place.”
The Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) welcomed the plans to boost the ‘green economy’ and a further package to support apprenticeships.
It said the £2bn Green Homes Grant would help homeowners improve the energy efficiency of their homes, with a further £1bn to be invested in making public buildings such as schools and hospitals more energy efficient and £50m allocated to improve social housing.
BESA also welcomed the government’s ‘kickstart’ scheme, which includes £2,000 for every employer who takes on an apprentice and £1,000 to any willing to take on new trainees. Firms will also receive £1,500 if they take on an apprentice aged over 25.
“This is all very welcome spending that will help to generate a pipeline of work for SMEs in our sector,” said BESA’s Director of Legal and Commercial Debbie Petford. “It is a bold plan that will address the twin challenges of cutting carbon and creating meaningful employment.”
John Bradley, Managing Director of Homevent, a division of Elta Fans, urges homeowners and contractors to consider the provision of adequate ventilation as part of any thermal improvements works under the scheme.
He said: “Anything that helps reduce heat losses and carbon emissions from a home has to be welcomed. However, new or additional insulation and more airtight windows can reduce the natural ventilation in a property to the point where it creates an environment conducive to mould growth and increased pollutant levels.”