heat pump

UK’s failure on heat pump installations has left it ‘gas addicted’

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Domestic gas use in the UK would be significantly lower this winter if it had kept pace with Europe on heat pump installations, analysis from the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) has found.

Heat pumps have already replaced about 20 per cent of the boilers in Europe, but the war in Ukraine is resulting in even more consumers turning to the electric heating systems as a way to reduce demand for gas whose price as increased significantly.

Estonia sold 1,583 heat pumps per 100,000 people in 2021 and Poland sold 259 per 100,000 people, 25 times and 4 times more than the UK’s 63 respectively.

The ECIU estimated that if the UK had already installed the same amount of heat pumps per 100,000 people as Estonia, the UK’s domestic gas use would be 107TWh or 34 per cent lower than in 2021 and gas imports in 2021 could have been cut by a fifth.

Total numbers of heat pumps are also a lot higher in most of Europe compared to the UK, which has just 280,000 heat pumps installed. For example, France has 3.1 million installed and Norway has 1.3 million.

The UK’s ’Government’s Boiler Upgrade Scheme’, which aims to install 90,000 heat pumps over three years by offering a £5,000 grant for air source and £6,000 for ground source heat pumps, was launched in late May 2022 and will run until April 2025.

It also launched the ‘Green Homes Grant Voucher Scheme’ during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic as a way to improve the energy efficiency of UK homes. Ultimately, it was found to have “underperformed badly”, with the majority of applications from homeowners either rejected or withdrawn.

Jess Ralston, senior analyst at ECIU, said: “They’ve been dubbed freedom pumps in the US because they reduce Europe’s dependence on Russian gas. The IMF has been clear that the UK is Europe’s most gas-addicted country. The Boiler Upgrade Scheme is essentially the UK’s down-payment on energy security. It’s driving down the costs to as little as £2,000 while driving up jobs for installers and manufacturers.”

Alongside efforts in Europe the Inflation Reduction Act in the US is also supporting installation of heat pumps, leading to sales growing by 15 per cent and 35 per cent in the US and EU respectively. Global growth in the heat pump market 2021 was the highest on record at 13 per cent.

Polling for the ECIU earlier in the year found that one third of the British public would be more likely to get an electric heat pump to help insulate the UK from Russia interfering in the gas market.

Yesterday, a survey revealed that millions more households are considering turning to electric heaters this winter to help cut energy costs, despite concerns they could pose a safety risk.

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