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Slow heat pump roll-out hits net zero targets

UK: The slow roll-out of heat pumps has been flagged by the Climate Change Committee (CCC) for the UK’s lack of progress towards meeting its net zero targets.

In its latest progress report, the independent government advisory body says that its confidence in the achievement of the UK’s 2030 target and the fifth and sixth carbon budgets has markedly declined from last year.

It highlights that at COP26 a commitment was made to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 68% by 2030. With emissions so far fallen 46% from 1990 levels, the rate of annual emissions reduction outside the electricity supply sector must therefore quadruple in only seven years, it says.

The Climate Change Committee implores the government to stay firm on existing commitments and move to delivery. It cites a number of strong government commitments, including the pledge to install 600,000 heat pumps per year by 2028. “These must be restated and moved as swiftly as possible towards delivery, including by ensuring the UK has the skills base it needs to deliver on its commitments and building on its promising plans to guide private sector action and investment,” the report says.

It complains that the Government has not yet set a clear direction on the future technology mix for low-carbon heat, but argues that heat pumps and heat networks are “no-regret options” in many cases, adding that industry needs encouragement to invest and roll them out at pace.

The CCC points out that the UK installed 72,000 new heat pumps in 2022, well short of the projected 130,000 installations. It criticises the government for being committed to making the UK one of the largest markets in the world for heat pumps, when the UK ranked 21st out of 21 for per-capita installations of heat pumps in 2022 in comparison to neighbouring countries and was only 11th out of 21 for total volume of installations.

The report reveals that the average cost of installing a domestic heat pump fell by 1.9% in 2022. This followed sharp rises in 2020 (10.3%) and 2021 (19.2%). While heat pump unit costs fell by 6.7%, the cost of system components rose by 4.9%. Installation labour costs only rose by 0.7%, although these had increased by 13.7% in 2020 and 17.8% in 2021. 

In a letter to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Climate Change Committee chair Lord Deben maintains that the UK has lost its clear global climate leadership by failing to act decisively in response to the energy crisis and build on the success of hosting COP26. “Game-changing interventions from the US and Europe, which will turbocharge growth of renewables, are leaving the UK behind,” he writes.

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