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1st December 2020 - back to news index

Heat Pumps - an Efficient Way to Reduce Greenhouse Gases

Heat pumps use only a small amount of electricity to transport heat from one place to another. This is usually from the air outside to a hot water or heating system inside. At present, more than a third of the UK's greenhouse gas emissions are created through domestic, industrial and commercial heating. Heat pumps can be instrumental in helping the country meet its Paris Agreement target of net zero by 2050. The Climate Assembly's recent report states that 80% of their UK members saw a significant role for heat pumps in reaching these undoubtedly necessary goals.

The efficiency of heat pumps is certain, but challenges remain; to achieve this target, around 19 million hybrid (electrical and gas) heat pumps would need to be in general use by 2035. The main problem is the expense of replacing traditional gas boilers. Installation and running costs also need to be reduced. A report from the UK Energy Research Centre emphasised the extensive expansion of the national grid required to provide the electricity needed by so many electrical or hybrid heat pumps.

However, Environmental Audit Committee Chairman, Philip Dunne pointed out that if the UK is to achieve its emissions target by 2050: "We need to accelerate the rolling out of technologies that can get us there. The purpose of the Committee's work in this area is to examine whether new, low-carbon technologies can keep the lights on and our homes warm." He added that heat pumps are already used in other countries as a step towards de-carbonisation and requested information regarding feasibility and what challenges exist in relation to their increased use in the UK.

On 16 October 2020, the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) started an enquiry into the uptake of heat pumps. They continue to examine the potential for electrical, gas, and hybrid heat pumps in relation to the next phase of their Technological Innovation and Climate Change Enquiry, and welcome contributions. Topics may include public awareness; potential regulatory frameworks; any government steps that could increase uptake of heat pump technology; suggestions about lowering purchase, installation, and running costs of the technology; the possible role of gas or hybrid heat pumps; and how to improve skills of designers, builders and installers of heat pumps.

We'll provide an update as this situation develops.

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