Experts say hybrid heat pump incentives are need to decarbonise home heating
The Heating and Hotwater Industry Council (HHIC) is calling for greater support for hybrid systems in the Government’s Net Zero strategy, in order to provide a practical method of achieving low-carbon heating for consumers.
Launched in October last year, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s (BEIS) Heat and Buildings Strategy outlined the key technologies in the UK’s transition to net zero. The £450 million Boiler Upgrade Scheme was the centrepiece of the development, offering homeowners grants of £5,000-£6,000 for the installation of heat pumps.
However, this scheme only extends to all-electric systems at present, with hybrid set-ups currently ineligible for funding. Following the conclusion of the Renewable Heat Incentive in March 2022, this now means that there is no subsidy scheme in place for those looking to install a hybrid system.
Stewart Clements, director at the HHIC, said: “The supporting initiatives surrounding heat pumps demonstrate the key role that this technology will play in the nation’s decarbonisation efforts. However, as this legislation does not currently extend to hybrid systems – in this case an air source heat pump and gas boiler, operated by an intelligent control system – we feel that BEIS has effectively discontinued support for one of the most viable routes to achieving low-carbon heating.
“It’s important to acknowledge that transitioning directly to all-electric technology simply isn’t going to be an option for many consumers. For this reason, it’s vital that this level of support is extended to hybrid systems too as a means of bridging the gap.”
The case for hybrid heating systems has been set out in the HHIC’s latest whitepaper, Hybrid Heat Pumps: A Flexible Route to Decarbonise Heat. Within the whitepaper, the HHIC raises the point that opting for a hybrid system allows for an immediate reduction in carbon emissions for those unable to transition to all-electric heating at present.
From a practical perspective, homeowners can then make gradual improvements to the fabric of their property for increased energy efficiency, before making the full switch to an all-electric system at their convenience. Hydrogen fuelled boilers may also be an option in the longer term so consumers have the flexibility of different fuel options including off grid bio-fuels.
Elizabeth Wilkinson head of domestic product management at Groupe Atlantic and chair of the HHIC Hybrids Group, advised: “The UK’s ambitious Net Zero targets mean there is a real need to decarbonise our homes and buildings. With the varied and complex housing stock in the UK, it is imperative that we take a pragmatic view and utilise every available option.
“It’s clear that we will see significant diversification of technologies used to supply homes with heating and hot water. Hybrid heat pumps can play a role in this by providing a consumer-friendly stepping stone to full decarbonisation, whether that’s through decarbonisation of the gas grid or an upgrade to a full electric solution. Hybrid heat pumps are a practical solution that enable carbon reduction in homes now, and with recommendations in this paper, such as clearly defined standards for hybrid control to ensure carbon savings, they should not be overlooked in policy as a route towards Net Zero.”
The whitepaper also raises the issue of skills and training, with an emphasis on understanding the effect that building fabric and insulation has on thermal performance and heat demand. This can be measured through room-by-room heat loss calculations, which now form the basis of many training schemes offered by manufacturers within the HHIC.
Mr Clements concluded: “While it would be fair to say that more manufacturers are launching all-electric systems, the key challenges to uptake here are accessibility and attractiveness to the consumer.
“In this sense, hybrid systems may serve an effective intermediary between traditional gas boilers and low-carbon heating so we hit the Governments shorter term goals. For this reason, the HHIC strongly advocates that the Government adopts a revised position on this technology, as we believe it to be one of the most practical routes to net zero.”