Winser: NAO call for robust plan on low carbon heating "absolutely right"

Commission responds to new report showing slower than expected take-up of heat pumps

Published: 18 Mar 2024

By: Rob Mallows

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picture of a heat pump by a wall

A National Audit Office report out today (18 March 2024) says heat pump installations are falling well below the level needed to meet the government’s targets of 600,000 units installed each year by 2028. The NAO says in response that a more robust plan from government and greater clarity on the future role if any of hydrogen in heating are required, reflecting similar concerns on heat pump roll-out expressed by the Commission in the second National Infrastructure Assessment.

The report by the government spending watchdog concludes that meeting existing targets would need an eleven-fold increase in heat pump installations based on current figures. Along with the cost and the challenge of installation being  barriers, the NAO says the government also has no widespread programme to raise consumer awareness of heat pumps and the support avaialable to install them; it adds that continuing uncertainty over the role hydrogen and the future status of the country’s gas grid is also contributing to the slow pace of heat pump uptake.

Commissioner Nick Winser said:

“The NAO highlights that government’s current plans appear insufficient to meet its ambition of installing 600,000 heat pumps a year by 2028 or helping the eight million homes who need to switch from fossil fuel boilers to electrified heating by 2035 to meet climate targets. Recent decisions to delay or reverse policy have only made hitting these targets harder.

“The NAO’s call for government to develop a more robust, holistic, longer term plan is absolutely right and echoes our recommendations in the second National Infrastructure Assessment. Government setting out a definitive position on hydrogen’s role in heating and the future of the gas network will be key to providing clarity to both industry and consumers. Alongside this, accelerating work to rebalancing electricity prices – as the report recommends – would help ensure there is a coherent package of incentives to encourage the take up of low carbon heating.”

In the second National Infrastructure Assessment, the Commission said government should take measures to support seven million homes in England to switch from fossil fuel-powered to low carbon powered heating (such as heat pumps or heat networks) by 2035, to help speed up the switchover. These measures included:

  • a £7,000 subsidy per property owner to install a heat pump or connect to a heat network from 2024
  • zero per cent finance for any additional up-front costs of installation, beyond the subsidy
  • taking policy costs of decarbonisation off electricity bills, and ensuring the costs of running a heat pump is lower that the cost of running a boiler.

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