Think tank Policy Exchange recently published a new report entitled ‘Too Hot to Handle?’ calling on policymakers to develop a new strategy for decarbonising domestic heating. The report identifies weaknesses in the policy approach of the last government, particularly its focus on electric heat pumps. Phil Hurley, Managing Director at NIBE, has labelled some of the report’s recommendations as ‘misguided’ – but has spoken out in support of its stance on demand-side reduction.
Phil comments: “The crux of Policy Exchange’s ‘Too Hot to Handle?’ report is undeniably gas-centric – and this is unsurprising, given it has been commissioned by key stakeholders in the gas industry. While some of the views outlined in the report are inevitably at odds with what we at NIBE (and the wider heat pump industry) believe, it raises one point in particular that we agree with wholeheartedly. This is the importance of reducing heat demand by improving energy efficiency in domestic buildings, as part of a national infrastructure project.
“The fact is, if we don’t address our leaky building stock now, we will never see a reduction in UK greenhouse gas emissions on the desired scale – irrespective of what types of heating technologies are fitted in our homes. Implementing heat-loss prevention measures (such as loft and wall insulation) nationally should be the first step in any government decarbonisation strategy. This also forms a crucial part of NIBE’s own vision to make sure more homes are fit to accommodate heat pumps: and we firmly believe the widespread rollout of heat pump technology is central for the UK to meet its long-term carbon reduction targets.
“For this reason, we can’t support the report’s recommendation to reduce the proposed number of heat pump installations. The alternative approach it puts forward – to improve the efficiency of gas appliances, and place more emphasis on using greener forms of gas – certainly has its place as part of the mix. But at NIBE, we feel it is misguided and short-sighted to suggest that this could be more effective, and result in greater carbon reductions, than a strategy that centres on renewable heat. The truth is, renewables are the only real energy-secure, futureproof solution to the UK’s carbon crisis, and the lasting financial and environmental savings they deliver are unparalleled.
“That’s why we’re urging the government to develop a refreshed decarbonisation strategy that levels the playing field between traditional fossil fuel-based systems and heat pumps. For this to work, we need an approach that marries up ‘quick-win’ schemes like the Renewable Heat Incentive with a robust, long-term policy vision for making renewable heat mainstream – something that’s missing from current legislation and from Policy Exchange’s report. As an industry leader and avid believer in the unrealised potential of heat pumps in the UK, we at NIBE will continue to do all we can to make this a reality.”