UK: The body behind the Microgeneration Certification Scheme is calling on the government to make heat pumps a priority after a new report compares it unfavourably with European neighbour France.
In its report – Heat pump rollout in France and the UK: a comparative analysis – the MCS Charitable Foundation says that the UK must achieve a ten-fold increase in deployment within five years to catch up with where France is at now.
France sold 621,000 heat pumps last year, saving 15.6Mt of CO2 emissions, while the UK sold just 55,000 heat pumps, saving1.5Mt of CO2 emissions, and had the lowest installation rate of 21 European countries.
The MCS Charitable Foundation oversees the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) which defines, maintains and improves quality standards for renewable energy at buildings scale.
The new report assesses why the UK is lagging behind targets and sets out lessons the government must learn from France if it is to meet climate change goals.
It highlights how the French government seized opportunities when there was disruption in global energy markets to refocus attention away from gas and oil onto electrifying heat. In addition, France has had energy efficiency standards for new-build homes for more than a decade that have accelerated heat pump deployment, and energy efficiency has been a political priority across different political parties.
In 2019, Emmanuel Macron’s government introduced financial incentives that saw a near-doubling of air-to-water heat pump installations within a year, building on previous incentive schemes. As a result of sustained support for heat pumps, France had more than 30,000 full time jobs in the heat pump industry in 2019, and increased from 100,000 sales in 2010 to over 600,000 sales by 2022.
By contrast, in the UK in 2019, after years of stop-start policies and inadequate funding, delays in regulations for new homes, and insufficient consumer information, there were only 2,000 jobs supported by the heat pump industry, and only a tenth of the number of heat pump installations seen in France.
The UK is now beginning to scale up heat pump deployment, but rather than a gradual rise in heat pump numbers, as France has achieved over 15 years, the report states, the UK government must now initiate an exponential increase in the heat pump market.
The rate of growth the UK must achieve would be unprecedented, but could deliver as many as 50,000 new jobs as well as cutting energy bills and carbon, the MCS Charitable Foundation argues.
The charity is calling for the Government to immediately commit to making heat pumps mandatory for all new homes, scaling up and extending grants for homeowners to install heat pumps and introducing new loan schemes, and a massive consumer awareness campaign to help people access funding.
“Heat pumps are an extremely efficient technology for cutting carbon and bills, but the UK has so far not capitalised on their potential. With other countries such as France surging ahead, the race is on for the UK to step up,” said MCS Charitable Foundation director of external affairs David Cowdrey.
“The government’s Boiler Upgrade Scheme and zero-rated VAT on heat pumps have helped set the UK towards rising installations. But we need a much more comprehensive set of policy measures to meet the government’s targets, including mandating solar and heat pumps for all new build homes, to help create the tens of thousands of jobs we know a thriving heat pump market can support.”
Commenting on the disparity between the French and UK heat pump markets, the Heat Pump Association’s chief executive Charlotte Lee said: “This report compellingly demonstrates this is due to clear and decisive policy by the French government in exactly the same areas the UK heat pump industry has advocated for years. Strict new-build standards, grants that make consumers’ choice for heat pumps compelling, low electricity prices, the building of the installer base, and the phase-out of fossil fuel boilers have been major contributors to France’s success.
“There is still time to meet the UK government’s target of 600,000 heat pumps installed annually by 2028, but to do so similar swift and decisive action to France is needed – implementation of the Future Homes and Buildings Standards in 2025, setting of clear dates to end the sale of new fossil fuel boilers, reducing electricity prices and improving installer training and standards across the entire heating industry.”
Dr Jan Rosenow, director of European programmes at the Regulatory Assistance Project, added: “Leading heat pump markets around the world have one thing in common: a stable and clear policy and regulatory landscape. If the policy package is right, consumer demand and industry investment follows as experience from other countries shows very clearly. The UK can be a global leader on clean heating but this requires long-term policies to drive consumer demand and supply chain expansion.”
The report can be viewed and dowloaded here.