In defence of heat pumps

6th Sep 2021

 

Heat pumps have faced a bit of criticism over the past few weeks. The Prime Minister suggested that at “£10 grand a pop” they are too expensive; the Business Secretary suggested they don’t work as well as gas boilers and last week, the CEO of the Climate Change Committee went on record as saying that heat pumps are “very expensive at the moment”; “they are not ready for the mass market yet” and the “consumer offer is not where it should be”. (It probably explains why he still uses a gas boiler).

Coming on top of the jibes from some energy suppliers referring to heat pumps as a “cottage industry” and that they can halve the cost in 18 months, implying consumers should hold off buying one now, it would appear all is not well with heat pumps. But let’s bust a few myths.

Firstly, heat pumps are not a cottage industry. One of our members is a major Japanese company, manufacturing heat pumps and air con units in Scotland. As someone who worked in manufacturing, I can vouch that Japanese production processes with their emphasis on total quality management, are the envy of the world. To refer to them as a “cottage industry” is frankly outrageous.

The components for heat pumps are common with air con units, tens of millions are sold worldwide each year. Higher volumes in the UK heating sector is simply not going to bring about any major economies of scale and cost reductions – despite what some suggest. Yes, there is potential for the learning curve impact to reduce the costs of installation of the product with higher UK volumes, but lowering the overall cost to the consumer by half is pushing it.

Heat pump technology has been around for ages, let’s not pretend otherwise. They have a key role to play in achieving net zero. And with electricity costs rising rapidly, obtaining three units of energy from a single unit of input, is something to be welcomed. All those UK homes with direct electric heating – those old inefficient storage radiators for example, make an ideal place to start ramping up those heat pump volumes.

 

Mike Foster

EUA's Chief Executive

 

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