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Unconvincing progress on UK decarbonisation

UK: The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) says it is not convinced that current progress on the government’s aims to reach 600,000 heat pump installations per year by 2028 matches its ambitions.

In a new report, the PAC describes the decarbonisation of home heating as “one of the biggest challenges” to the Government in achieving net zero

The report, entitled Decarbonising Home Heating, finds that consumers still face too much complexity and confusion to make informed decisions about installing a heat pump, with the government facing a substantial challenge to increase the a sufficient number of trained heat pump installers.

It sees the cost of buying and running heat pumps as a “substantial barrier” to take-up and, while installation costs have fallen by up to 6% since 2021, costs need to come down much quicker if the government is to achieve its target of a 25% reduction in installation costs by 2025.

The report also recognises the cost disparity between electricity and gas, with the Department for Energy Security & Net Zero (DESNZ) delaying plans to rebalance the cost of electricity and gas by nearly two years, stating that doing so is difficult. 

“We are concerned that most households receiving the government’s £7,500 Boiler Upgrade Scheme grant might be from more affluent groups, as they are more likely to be able to afford the additional costs and may have installed a heat pump even without the grant.” 

It recommends that DESNZ should reveal the findings of its evaluation of heat pump take-up among different socio-economic groups by the end of January and should set out what actions it will take to address the high running costs of heat pumps.

The PAC expresses concern that there is too much complexity and potential confusion for households to enable them to make informed decisions about installing a heat pump. It recommends that DESNZ should set out how it will make the heat pump landscape easier for consumers to navigate.  

The PAC also backs Heat Pump Association estimates that 33,700 trained heat pump installers will be needed by 2028 and recomends that, as part of its treasury minute response, DESNZ should set out what actions it will take to increase the number of heat pump installers after 2025.

With DESNZ not collecting all the information it needs to monitor progress with installing heat pumps, the PAC advises developing a mechanism for collecting and monitoring data on heat pump installations across all households in England by the end of December at the latest and publish these on a quarterly basis.

DESNZ has not yet worked out how it will support the estimated 20% of households where heat pumps are not a practical solution. PAC recommends that DESNZ should, by end-December, outline which types of properties and regions it does not expect to be suitable for a heat pump and what alternative low-carbon technologies are available to them.

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