Test Heat Pumps In Public Buildings To Boost Confidence, Tories Say

Heat pumps should be tested in public buildings to prove they work before being installed in homes, Douglas Lumsden, the Scottish Conservative Net Zero spokesman has said.

This comes as the Scottish Conservatives set out a plan to boost heat pump installations, that also includes more grants for energy efficient home improvements, and exemptions for off-grid homes, where the party argues upgrades would be “prohibitively expensive”.

Lumsden stated the plans would increase public confidence in the new boiler replacement technology:

“We’re insisting that local authorities and governments install green heating alternatives before putting those demands on homeowners. This will not only give the public more time to switch over but it lets them see that those imposing regulations on them are practising what they preach.”

The Scottish government, led by the Scottish National Party (SNP), has set a target for heat pumps to be the main heating source in most homes and buildings by 2045, and wants to enforce higher energy efficient standards in all homes by 2033.

The Tories argue the cost of installing heat pumps and other energy efficiency measures is too great for most households to bear alone. They’re proposing a £7,500 grant for heat pumps, insulation, and double glazing, as well as interest-free loans of up to £10,000.

The grant alone would cost around £9.2 billion if all energy inefficient homes applied for it, and it’s unclear how this would be paid for.

Homeowners in England and Wales can already access a £7,500 heat pump grant under the Boiler Upgrade Scheme, although the scheme has been criticised for not having enough funding to make a dent in the number of homes that need to upgrade to a heat pump.

Scotland certainly needs to boost its heat pump installations. A recent report Audit Scotland found that the rate of heat pump installation in Scotland was going too slowly for the government to hit its 2045 targets, and recommended that the government set budgets, and a clear timescale of targets.

The Scottish government has so far pledged £1.8 billion towards decarbonising heating, although the Audit Scotland report estimates £33 billion in public and private funding will be necessary to achieve targets.

heat pump unit outside house, underneath windows

Heat pump sales slowdown in Europe

Scotland isn’t the only country facing difficulties with heat pump installations. Heat pump sales have slowed in several European countries.

In 2023, heat pump sales were down by 5%, compared to 2022, in 14 European countries, according to data from the European Heat Pump Association (EHPA).

Sales declined in France, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark, for example, all countries that have been winning the heat pump race when it comes to the number of heat pumps per 100,000 people.

Norway, which has the most heat pumps per 100,000 people of any European country, was spared a drop in sales, as was the UK, where sales increased by 4% in 2023.

The EHPA blamed the slowing of sales on the European Commission delaying publishing their Heat Pump Action Plan, which was due in 2024, as well as “high interest rates and changing national policy measures [that] are unsettling investors and consumers”.

Thomas Nowak, secretary general at the European Heat Pump Association had this to say:

“If Europe is serious about supporting net zero industries, decarbonising, and achieving greater energy independence, it can not afford to delay. A proper action plan shows voters that EU policy makers have their back.”

Policy uncertainties and delays are an issue in the UK as well. The most recent turmoil has come from rumours that the government is doing away with its ‘boiler tax’. Scheduled to start in April 2024, the scheme would impose quotas on heat pump sales to manufacturers, subject to a fine if not met.

According to Worcester-Bosch, the scheme would essentially compel 60,000 heat pump installations in its first year, a target they said cannot be met by manufacturers.

Written by:
Tatiana has written about multiple environmental topics, including heat pumps, energy-efficient household products, and solar panels. She is dedicated to demystifying green tech to make eco-friendly living more accessible.
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