The UK is far behind France and other EU countries in heat pump installations, research shows, with less than a tenth the number of installations despite having similar markets.
Only 55,000 heat pumps were sold in the UK last year, compared to over 620,000 in France. Twenty other European countries also had higher settlement rates than the UK.
Heat pumps, which are powered by electricity and work much like upside-down fridges, are seen as the most efficient way for the UK to switch to low-carbon heating and s away from the gas boilers that heat the majority of homes. With gas prices still at high levels, heat pumps are cheaper to run than gas boilers, although more expensive to install, and could be even cheaper with further changes in the electricity market .
At current rates, the UK is unlikely to meet the government’s target of 600,000 heat pump installations per year by 2028. However, according to analysts from the MCS Charitable Foundation, which endorses the standards low-carbon certification, preparing for it could create 50,000 new jobs, compared to only around 2,000 jobs in the industry today.
The MCS report, titled Deployment of heat pumps in France and the UK in 2023, called on the government to make heat pumps compulsory for all new homes, to increase and extend subsidies to install heat pumps in existing homes, introduce new homeowner loan programs and launch a nationwide awareness campaign to explain heat pumps and the incentives offered.
The existing boiler upgrade program must be extended to be effective, the report says, and ministers must introduce the long-awaited future standard on homes from 2025, with a clear end date for boiler sales at gas.
David Cowdrey, Director of External Affairs at MCS, said: “Heat pumps are a hugely effective technology for reducing carbon and bills, but the UK has so far failed to realize their potential. As other countries like France forge ahead, the race is on for the UK to step up. We need a much more comprehensive set of policy measures to achieve the government’s goals.
The UK heat pump market grew by around 40% in 2022, but from a very low base, with just 1.9 heat pumps installed per 1,000 homes last year, compared to 20 per 1,000 households in France and nearly 70 in Finland.
MCS said it was not too late for the government to meet its targets, pointing to an 80% increase in France from 90,000 installations in 2018 to 175,0000 in 2019 after the introduction of an accessible subsidy scheme to all households.