To solve the climate crisis, even the most strident cynic now realises that we must stop burning fossil fuels and turn to renewables to significantly reduce the emissions generated by keeping our buildings comfortable places for us to work, rest and call home.
In the UK, heating accounts for almost a third of all carbon emissions, so changing how we heat residential and commercial buildings is critical to tackle climate change and reach net zero before 2050.
Our power grid is getting greener and cleaner as we generate more renewable energy and heating our buildings with electric heat pumps becomes the obvious solution.
The UK Government already recognises this and has identified heat pumps as one of the pivotal technologies that can truly be effective in the required timeframe due to their efficiency and suitability for a wide range of applications.
Yet some still see modern, inverter-driven heat pumps as ‘new’ even though hundreds of thousands are working up and down the country. The Government is also calling for 600,000 residential installations a year by 2028 – just five years away.
Achieving this ambitious target will require a tenfold increase in residential installations over the next five years. This presents a significant opportunity for growth in renewable businesses geared up to help customers transition to low-carbon heating.
Modern heat pumps have been available for over a decade. Yet, the renewable heating market is still in its infancy, and the number of renewable heating installers needs to grow significantly.
There are challenges in training enough installers, and we need to upgrade older buildings, but there is no doubt that the heat pump age is here.
With an urgent need to tackle the climate crisis, the Government and industry must come together to find ways of applying heat pumps as quickly as possible.
For our homes, achieving the Government’s ambitious target of 600,000 heat pump installations a year by 2028 will require a tenfold increase in the number of installations over the next five years.
In the commercial sector, there is now a strong economic and ethical case for renewable heating. Businesses know they need to move from gas, with many actively planning this in their annual budgets during the next three to five years.
In the public sector, funding to decarbonise local authority, the NHS, and educational buildings is available, with commercial heat pumps now helping to ensure that the public sector is leading the way to low-carbon buildings.
For community heating schemes, heat pumps can also use fifth- generation, low-temperature heat networks to maximise efficiency and minimise running costs.
Modern heat pumps are now available for anything from a 5kW system for a small apartment or typical family home, right up to Megawatts of heating that will service a school, a leisure centre, a hospital, or an entire university campus.
In addition to helping create thousands of ‘green’ engineering jobs, the move to decarbonise heating will also allow private and public businesses to reduce carbon in their buildings.
Work has already been happening in the background to help decarbonise the public sector and introduce renewable heating systems.
The next round of the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme will open to applications again this coming autumn and will likely be oversubscribed again.
Otherwise known as Salix funding after the body administering the funds, the Scheme supports the intention to reduce “emissions from public sector buildings by 75% by 2037, compared to a 2017 baseline”. (1)
The publicly funded Scheme provides 100% interest-free loans to the public sector to improve their onsite energy efficiency and reduce their carbon emissions.
Salix supports decarbonisation in various public sector bodies, such as the NHS, local authorities and education. The Scheme has already helped many schools and councils begin the transition to renewable heating forms.
To achieve growth in the adoption of heat pumps, we need three things to align:
Salix funding is helping to turbocharge the adoption of renewable heat pumps in the public sector. Manufacturers are responding by increasing production to meet expected demand.
In the private sector, building owners realise that they need to move to renewable heating in the immediate future if they want to avoid ending up with a stranded asset that they cannot let.
Businesses with their own properties are also looking at renewable heating and planning on how to transition to heat pumps, with many planning for this in their annual budgets.
This is increasing demand, which manufacturers are gearing up to meet.
At the same time, heat pump manufacturers are significantly increasing the training available to develop the skills necessary to become a heat pump engineer.
In our own case, we have entirely redesigned our training to make it a three-stage process, quadrupling the amount of training available.
Stage One is online learning modules that engineers can complete at a time which suits them.
Stage Two follows the completion of the online learning and involves live webinars with our advanced trainers, which can include as many as 90 engineers simultaneously.
Stage Three involves visiting one of our training suites nationwide, where the engineers are given specific faults to remedy.
While this is all available right now, it is also worth reminding ourselves that thousands of heating engineers are also looking to their future and deciding to acquire the skills needed to move from gas to heat pumps.
These skilled plumbing and heating professionals already have the majority of skills needed to deliver renewable heating systems.
So, it now seems clear that tackling the heating challenge can help us decarbonise society and create new and sustainable ‘green’ careers.
For over a decade, Mitsubishi Electric has led the way in the UK heat pump market. We were among the first manufacturers to include embodied carbon data for its products. Our company manufactures heat pumps in Scotland and has developed what, in our view, is the most comprehensive range for almost any building in the country.
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