Government urged to target one million heat pumps a year by 2035

The UK must invest in ground source heat pump infrastructure in the 2020s, just as previous generations ploughed money into the gas and water grid, in order to help kickstart the fledgling sector.


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Government urged to target one million heat pumps a year by 2035

Beanland said the higher levies imposed on electricity supply vis-a-vis gas also needs to be addressed by policymakers

Bean Beanland, president of the recently rebranded Ground Source Heat Pump Association, told Utility Week that the association will be pressing the government to provide capital grants for the installation of heat pumps as part of a new post -2021 support framework for low-carbon heating.

The replacement for the Renewable Heat Incentive, the existing framework that runs out next year, should set a target of 1 million heat pump installations a year by 2035, according to the association.

Beanland estimated that capital grants for works such as boreholes and pipes to connect the ground heat to the pumps above, could cut the cost of installing the devices by between a half and a third.

Investment in heat pump infrastructure could provide the same kind of long term benefits to society that expenditure on the energy and water grid had delivered 50 years ago, he said: “That is public spending for public good because those boreholes will have a lifespan of 100 years: that is genuine infrastructure.”

Cutting the upfront costs of putting in heat pumps, which continue to be more expensive than conventional natural gas boilers, could stimulate the market for the technology and its installation supply chain, Beanland said: “We want long term signals so that we can start weaning people off fossil fuels and persuade plumbers that they can deliver heat pumps alongside their existing business.

“It is critical that installers start to invest the time to repurpose and retrain from fossil fuel technologies to heat pumps.”

Beanland said the higher levies imposed on electricity supply vis-a-vis gas also needs to be addressed by policymakers.

He said that these higher levies now seem “illogical”, given the extent to which the electricity grid has been decarbonised in recent years.

Given how much gas is effectively subsidised, Beanland said some form of policy support is required to allow heat pumps to compete for investment.

David Blackman

This article first appeared on edie’s sister title, Utility Week

© Faversham House Ltd 2022 edie news articles may be copied or forwarded for individual use only. No other reproduction or distribution is permitted without prior written consent.

Comments (9)

  1. Keiron Shatwell says:

    Heat Pumps (be they Air, Ground or Water sourced) are only truly effective in properly built and insulated buildings with fit for purpose heating systems. They are absolutely useless in most of our current housing stock, even houses built to modern standards leak like a sieve.

    With virtually no quality control on builders there is no way to say for sure if insulation has been installed properly or that modern housing will actually meet the energy efficiency standards stated. Evidence shows that modern buildings can be twice as energy hungry as the certificate says. Older housing is even worse even if you do add double insulation. I have found at least 2 locations in my house where insulation is totally absent in areas where I have no chance of ever installing it retrospectively. Plus to fit a Heat Pump retrospectively in my house requires a complete overhaul of my "wet" system at a cost of about 18k for the GSHP and 5k for new pipes and radiators to give me a central heating system that may not actually heat my home enough.

    Then there is the elephant in the system with Heat Pumps. The fluid they use to extract the heat and transfer it is a Hydro Carbon. Or more correctly a Fluoridated Hydrocarbon (HFC). Made from oil and a potent Greenhouse Gas. While in normal use this is not a problem if it leaks it becomes a climate change problem. And 1 million Heat Pumps need a lot of refrigerant to work which means oil.

    So while they can be effective and are a source of low carbon heat they still need a lot of oil for their construction and operation so don’t call them No Carbon

  2. Nigel Aylwin-Foster says:

    To Keiron. It seems a big jump from ‘only truly effective’ to ‘absolutely useless’. I’ve heard the ‘absolutely useless in existing stock, especially old stock’, many times in the past couple of years. But there is also plenty of empirical evidence that indicates the opposite. It’s not that long ago that I went to a relatively leaky, old listed house that was functioning perfectly well on GSHP. A fossil fuel back-up had been retained, but not used since the system was installed a few years previously. Seems to me that the key requirement is to get the specification right and then ensure that the system is installed as specified.

  3. Keiron Shatwell says:

    Nigel – I can only quote from what other users of these systems have said. One lady I spoke to about an ASHP told me she was now paying 4 times as much in electricity to heat her home since the council installed an ASHP and the house was still cold and now damp. Hardly an effective heating system.
    Another person who installed ASHP has had it removed and the oil boiler reinstated as it was costing more to heat the home and hot water with the ASHP than with the oil boiler. Again hardly effective and their’s is a fairly new build house (less than 20 years old).
    I’ve heard other people say they wish they’d never installed ASHP and I know of one person who installed a GSHP only to find they now have to use the electric immersion to provide a tank full (200l) of hot water every day as the GSHP can’t heat the water enough.

    Properly designed, installed and with a properly insulated (PassivHaus?) building yes Heat Pumps are effective but in our ageing, leaky, poorly insulated housing stock (particularly council/housing association stock) they are proving to be increasingly bad choices and I am yet to be convinced how efficient they are in the Highlands where temperatures are often low throughout winter when you need the heating most.

  4. Nigel Aylwin-Foster says:

    To Keiron. It seems a big jump from ‘only truly effective’ to ‘absolutely useless’. I’ve heard the ‘absolutely useless in existing stock, especially old stock’, many times in the past couple of years. But there is also plenty of empirical evidence that indicates the opposite. It’s not that long ago that I went to a relatively leaky, old listed house that was functioning perfectly well on GSHP. A fossil fuel back-up had been retained, but not used since the system was installed a few years previously. Seems to me that the key requirement is to get the specification right and then ensure that the system is installed as specified.

  5. Barry Quaye says:

    Seems to me that the key requirement is to get the specification right and then ensure that the system is installed as specified." is entirely correct.

    As an installer of ERP A++ ASHPs on a UK offshore (subsidy free) market, one also knows first hand how the problem installations can occur – it’s almost always down to incorrect design.

    With regards to age of buildings, insulation levels – it really is irrelevant to the type of heat source, It is the rated output of the Heat Source and the way the Heat Source Delivers the Heat.

    The above is In relation to (but not limited to) positioning of equipment, available electrical power supply, pipe sizing & flow rates, heat emitter surface area etc.

    On a retrofit refurbishment installation, a new ASHP installation easily competes with a new Oil fired installation.

    On an existent retrofit, on average (in the local market I am based) at least one radiator usually requires replacement, to enable a Heat Output operating at Flow Temperatures optimal for ASHP efficiency (optimal Co-Efficient of Performance) along with a Heat Pump rated Hot Water Cylinder.

    My house was built in 1890, and the Heat Pump works fine. However every installation has to be assessed prior, as the old methods of Boiler sizes being literally guessed no longer applies.

  6. Andy Cook says:

    Kieron re: elephant in the rooms for heat pumps -> CO2 heat pumps do not use refrigerants. However these are mostly used in DHW applications, not for continuous heating.

  7. Keiron Shatwell says:

    Barry – You are correct that most, if not all problems, come from incorrect design or installation. As I said when they are built in from the start, correctly sized and designed for the building then Heat Pumps work brilliantly. It is just Thermodynamics and you can’t argue with Physics.

    The danger with this urgent target is we might manage to install 1 million Heat Pumps but without oversight and Quality Control 999,999 of them will be unfit for purpose, badly designed and inefficient which completely defeats the purpose. It is exactly like the lack of oversight and QC in the building industry that is allowing modern homes to end up with thermal bridges, gaps in insulation, gaps and draughts despite the standards stating that modern houses should achieve a minimum energy standard. Slapping a solar panel on a North facing roof shouldn’t mean a box can be ticked.

    Andy – never heard of CO2 being used as a refrigerant I have to admit and the only Heat Pump I have ever seen for HW used R-132 (an HFC) which proved to be unfit for purpose when I tried it as it took 26hrs to heat my water tank (assuming I actually didn’t take any HW out of the tank!!)

  8. Nigel Aylwin-Foster says:

    This is a useful discussion and I’m glad I shrugged off my usual reticence to pick an argument.
    Interesting point about the cost of the power supply going up so much that it rendered the ASHP installation economically unviable. I have also heard that from a contact who used to work with housing associations, where the ASHPs that had recently been installed all had to be removed again, because the tenants could not afford the electricity bills any longer. But arguably that issue arose because of incorrect specification in the first place.
    Totally agree with Keiron that it will all depend on proper oversight, to ensure no shortcuts and to ensure that specification, design, build quality etc are all correct. Maybe the various UK heat pump trade associations should be banging that drum alongside the perfectly reasonable argument that we need to escalate the rate of deployment of heat pumps. (I am just a retired tank commander and trouble-maker, by the way, so have no axe to grind in this matter).

  9. Keiron Shatwell says:

    Nigel – I think the problem is councils and housing associations are basically "ticking a box" by installing ASHP in their housing stock without taking the building standards, customer needs or anything else into account. From what I understand from the lady whose electricity bill went up 4x no one had even been to her house to inspect it before the ASHP was installed. They just bolted it on and ticked the box to meet an arbitrary "eco" target.

    With all the talk of low carbon and renewable people forget that while the heat source is renewable the compressor and pumps take a fair amount of electricity to power them. At 15p/kwhr you have to get 4x more heat than the electricity used to match the cost of oil or gas fired CH. In winter, at single digit temperatures or below, how much heat can an ASHP extract per unit of electricity? I’ve heard talk of as little as 1kw of heat per kw of electricity which is hardly effective or efficient.

    As I have said previously when properly designed, installed and fit for purpose, in a properly insulated, energy efficient building Heat Pumps are a valuable addition to the heating options but when they are just thrown on an old, leaky, draughty house to meet a KPI they are totally worthless and completely useless.

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