Environmental Audit Committee
Environmental Audit Committee of the House of Commons has called for submissions on how the uptake of heat pumps can be accelerated.
Philip Dunne, the chairman of the EAC said, "Heat pumps are playing an increasingly significant role in decarbonising heat in other countries. I look forward to the committee examining why this has yet to take off across the UK".
It is true that heat pump sales have taken off in other countries such as in Sweden. Over 100,000 heat pumps are sold in Sweden each year. The number sold in the UK is only around 28,000, although the population of the UK is nearly seven times as large as that of Sweden. The principal reason for lack of heat pump sales in the UK is government policy, specifically fiscal policy.
The price of gas for domestic consumers in the UK is lower than anywhere in Europe, except Luxembourg. The price of gas for domestic consumers in Sweden is nearly two and a half times more than in the UK.
There is a severe contrast with the price of domestic electricity.The price of electricity for domestic consumers in the UK is increased 48% by taxes and environmental levies.
These environmental levies date from the time that electricity in the UK was largely derived from burning coal.
Coal releases copious quantities of CO2 when burnt and it was right to place environmental levies on electricity in 2000 when the levies were introduced.
However, burning coal has largely been phased out for electricity generation as wind and other renewables have taken up the slack.
The grid carbon factor of UK electricity has fallen from:
- 512 grams CO2e/kWh in 2014
- to 135 grams CO2e/kWh in 2020
- BEIS anticipates that it will fall to just 41 grams CO2e/kWh by 2035.
Decarbonisation of heating
The fall in the grid carbon factor encourages the policy driver for the electrification of heat.
Heat pumps issue no CO2 on site (and no NO2 either). If they employ grid electricity then the CO2 released at power stations is regularly attributed to heat pumps, even though this has already fallen to a small fraction of what it once was.
The adoption of heat pumps has been held back in the UK by the high price of electricity. Sales will continue to be held back until the Treasury adjusts the Fiscal Background to reduce taxes and levies on electricity.
The fiscal background is the biggest barrier to the adoption of heat pumps in the UK.
Sweden has shown the way. It is time for the UK to follow.