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MPs call for more heat pump engineers

UK: The Environmental Audit Committee has warned that government plans to install 600,000 heat pumps a year by 2028 could fail without more skilled engineers.

A letter to energy minister Kwasi Kwarteng from Philip Dunne MP, the chairman of the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC), also calls for a multi-year extension to the Green Homes Grant and has raised concerns of the affordability of heat pumps.

In written evidence and during the one-off evidence session at the end of last month, witnesses explained that the supply chain is not currently equipped to install the numbers of heat pumps required. The consensus was that sufficient production and high-quality installation are key to making the roll-out happen and, while the initial growth in heat pump installers will come from re-skilling existing gas and electrical engineers, there needs to be a concerted attempt to bring new, skilled entrants into the market.

The EAC is therefore urging the Government to fund a dedicated training programme to support a long-term strategy for education and training in green jobs.

Also, while the Green Homes Grant will support the take-up of heat pumps in UK homes, the EAC says the industry needs the confidence to invest in skills and resource which is unlikely given the short window the scheme is currently expected to operate in. It therefore calls on the scheme to be extended beyond March 2022 to become a multi-year scheme, which could help open the heat pump market.

The committee also says that heat pumps must be affordable for consumers. With the cost of electricity roughly four times more expensive than gas, the committee was advised that reviewing the policy costs across gas and electricity could significantly improve the customer case for heat pumps, making them cheaper to run than gas boilers in many more domestic settings.

“We are in an exciting and innovative time with new technologies coming to market that can make our net-zero ambition a reality. But the scale of the challenge is huge, and requires Government to set clear direction to instil industry confidence,” said Philip Dunne.

“Heat pumps could be transformative in decarbonising heating in our homes, and with homes emitting 20% of the UK’s greenhouse gases, it is a problem we need to meet head-on. Only when the supply chain is equipped to deliver the roll-out of 600,000 heat pumps a year, and costs are brought down for consumers, will we see heat pumps being a staple for many UK homes.”

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