National Audit Office outlines why government is falling behind its heat pump installation targets

  • Govt lagging behind heat pump installation targets
  • Limited public awareness and lack of financial support cited as causes
  • Target is 600,000 installations per year by 2028

A new report published by the National Audit Office (NAO) on Monday has found that limited public awareness of heat pumps, along with high costs, and a lack of long-term financial support for households have all contributed to the government falling behind its heat pump installation targets.

In 2022, just 55,000 heat pumps were installed in the UK, which is significantly lower than the government’s target of 600,000 heat pumps to be installed per year by 2028.  

To reach the target of 600,000 per year, the UK would need to be installing 50,000 heat pumps per month, whereas, as per the latest MCS data, we managed just 4112 in February 2024, so there is still some way to go. 

Home heating represents 18% of UK greenhouse gas emissions and the government sees heat pumps as the main technology to help decarbonise the UK’s 28 million homes over the next decade. 

By 2035, the government wants to see the heat pump installation target increase further to 1.6 million per year. To reach that target, the NAO warns that sales would need to drastically increase. 

In its report, the NAO said that  the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (DENZ) was “relying on optimistic assumptions about consumer demand and manufacturer supply of heat pumps increasing substantially to achieve 600,000 installations per year by 2028”.

The NAO also said that the DESNZ should establish an “overarching long-term consumer engagement plan to support achieving key milestones, such as the phase-out of the sale of new fossil fuel boilers by 2035. This should include clarifying roles and responsibilities for existing organisations in central and local government. DESNZ should also consider introducing a new body with specific responsibility for consumer engagement.”

Gareth Davies, the head of the NAO, said: “The government needs to engage every household to achieve its objective to decarbonise home heating as part of the transition to net zero. DESNZ’s progress in making households aware and encouraging them to switch to low-carbon alternatives has been slower than expected.

“DESNZ must draw on its experience to date to ensure its mix of incentives, engagement and regulations addresses the barriers to progress in its current programme of work.” 

The government’s flagship Boiler Upgrade Scheme has also underperformed, installing just 18,900 heat pumps between May 2022 to December 2023, which DESNZ expected to be 50,000 by this point. 

In response, DESNZ increased the grant available to people replacing boilers from £5,000-£6,000 to £7,500 in September last year, which has enabled some energy suppliers to offer heat pump installations starting at £500. 

Applications to the scheme in January 2024 increased by near 40%, compared to January 2023. 

For more information about heat pump costs, take a look at the guides in our heat pumps section

Written by:
Tamara Birch, senior writer, The Eco Experts
Tamara has written about environmental topics for more than four years. This includes advising small business owners on cost-effective ways, like solar panels and energy-efficient products to help them become more sustainable. 
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