The Heat & Buildings Strategy was published in October 2021, setting out the strategy of how the UK will decarbonise homes, commercial, industrial, and public sector buildings as part of plan to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The policy paper included statements on the intention to introduce a market mechanism to achieve the goal of a greener future. The plan’s outline proposes to target boiler manufacturers and to set a quota of how many heat pumps must be sold in addition to, or instead of, non-renewably fuelled home heating systems.

A consultation was put out late last year giving those in the industry until 12 January to issue a response to the proposed plan. In May of this year, the government confirmed the intention to proceed with a market mechanism strategy. In the impact assessment, the breakdown of these targets are approximately 30,000 heat pumps installed per year starting in 2024 increasing over the following years until the quota reaches 210,000 by 2028.

Omitting information

While the purpose of these targets is for positive, environmental change and providing the infrastructure for a greener future, it is omitting the salient consideration that the appliance manufacturer rarely has contact with the end-user prior to the installation of an appliance in their home.

The manufacturer tends to have an influence on the brand the customer chooses, however the most pertinent factor in choosing the right product for their home is based on the installer’s expertise as to what is the best fit for their requirements. For those who are building new homes, it is the builder in conjunction with an industry professional.

The right fit

There is a disconnect as the boiler manufacturer is mostly two steps removed from the consumer. This not only poses challenges for the consumer and manufacturer, but it also threatens the initiative’s successful permeation in its early stages, which will be crucial in keeping on track to reach the net-zero target by 2050.

Without direct contact between the homeowner and the manufacturer, it runs the risk of homes having an incongruent system in favour of reaching quotas which may lead to installations that are unsuitable.

The current free market model, where each home has the option to have the optimum product installed based on their needs with the guidance of a qualified installer is at risk of being substituted for a push strategy that has not considered the differing requirements of different property specs.

Looking towards a greener future

It is an ambitious target, and we support the ultimate outcome of a greener, more sustainable future and the important role the industry has to play in realising that vision, however, there are practicalities that must be improved on in order for this transitionary phase to run smoothly.

This is a seismic shift for the industry, the consumer and society. It is paramount that manufacturers have input on guiding government policy to ensure the approach is as pragmatic as possible for all parties.

The bottom line is that for heat pumps to become the norm, the technology’s permeation must not be a hassle for the consumer, or it will become a deterrent.

Collaborating with manufacturers and getting the relevant insight into how to achieve these targets will be the difference between an auspicious opening phase of this scheme and getting resistance to heat pumps due to improper functionality.