08 August 2023
Heat Pumps Today are very pleased to share some insight of Charlotte Lee .
How did you get into the heat
I have always been interested in politics and engagement, having studied Politics and International Relations at university, and being the President of the university Debating Society many years ago.
My interest in sustainability was triggered by one of my university modules, which looked at the political importance of energy security on election results. I knew at that point I wanted to go into energy policy advocacy which saw me start my career as a policy advisor and move to head up the external affairs function of an installer certification body. This included representing installers across the building fabric and services sector. With the recent focus on energy security and grid decarbonisation in the UK alongside the Government target to install 600,000 heat pumps a year by 2028, the heating industry has been a particular area of interest and focus for me over recent years.
What was your first job?
I began my career as a policy advisor for a low carbon, sustainable energy consultancy firm based near Birmingham, and much of my work was for a trade association.
What excites you about the industry?
What I find most exciting is both embracing the opportunities and tackling the challenges of supporting the industry in meeting the Government’s target of installing 600,000 heat pumps per year by 2028.
What does your current/new role involve?
As the first CEO of the Heat Pump Association, my role is to ensure that the Association is viewed as a well-respected, united voice for the heat pump industry, and that the industry and Government work in partnership to decarbonise home heating.
In order to achieve this, we need to continue to provide:
- The Government with well-reasoned, evidence-based policy proposals backed up with concrete economic analysis which will support growth in the heat pump sector.
- Consumers, specifiers and installers with factual and objective information about the benefits of heat pumps to grow awareness, interest and understanding.
- A strong collaborative voice for the industry on matters relating to heat pumps.
What do you see as the challenges facing the industry?
I believe the main challenges facing the industry today are consumer demand and the political climate. The technology and its efficiency are proven, and there are currently no reported constraints on supply. So, what is holding the UK back?
Heating is fundamentally a policy-driven market and a choice that most consumers make based on necessity, cost, familiarity, and ease.
Heat pumps lie at the heart of government policy for decarbonising heating. However, electricity prices are made more expensive by the application of Environmental and Social Obligations (so-called “green levies”) that are applied to electricity bills and not to gas to the same extent. This means that heat pump customers are unfairly disadvantaged compared to those with a gas boiler, because they pay more for these environmental programmes than gas customers do. Well-designed heat pump systems installed and set-up correctly and used optimally will deliver operating efficiencies that make a heat pump considerably cheaper to run than a gas boiler. However, a simple “drop-in” replacement heat pump can result in higher running costs, and there is certainly a wide range of consumer experiences reported.
Consumer demand will be driven by price, as well as confidence in the systems. Reducing upfront and running costs of heat pumps and improving consumer confidence are central to the HPA’s strategy this year and beyond.
In addition to this, it is politically challenging for any government to restrict consumer choice – which phasing out gas and oil boilers will do. This is heightened by the current high inflation rate which is exacerbating the cost of living. With the next election looming, the Government are understandably wary of off-siding the electorate.
However, the UK’s legally binding Net Zero targets are non-negotiable, and are also now aligned with the need to reduce dependency on imported fossil fuels and insulate consumers against future pricing shocks. Whilst 2050 may seem a long way off for zero carbon, rapid progress towards it will also achieve these other objectives, which become stronger political imperatives. However, change at this scale does not happen overnight, and action must be taken now. It is vital that we move beyond spending review cycles to drive forward heat decarbonisation, and there is no doubt that the Government will have a key role to play in this transition. Strong, decisive action is needed now.
What would you say to other women who are considering coming into the heat pump industry?
Having started in this role very recently, I have received nothing but support, acceptance and engagement from all that I have met. Some have said I’ve been a breath of fresh air, providing a new perspective on previously accepted positions.
Women have a vital role to play in our industry, and with hybrid and flexible working becoming more common for all, work places are adapting to support family life.
Based on my personal experience, I would strongly encourage women to enter and remain in this industry to enable a diverse and representative range of views and ideas, which will no doubt drive growth and development within the sector.
Is there a little-known fact about yourself?
My claim to fame is that I was an extra in the ‘Harry Potter, Chamber of Secrets’ film when I was at school.
Outside of work I enjoy spending time with my two young children, socialising with friends and keeping active with my two cocker spaniels.