If the UK does not accelerate the installation of heat pumps, it might lose out on £65 million annually by the end of the decade, according to energy analysts.
According to the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), the Government is jeopardising this revenue by not supporting heat pump production more. Three-quarters of the UK’s boiler exports go to nations with phase-out deadlines before 2030.
According to the ECIU, who used data from the United Nations Trade Department, exports of central heating boilers nearly halved between 2019 and 2022, from £150 million to £85 million. They speculated that this decline may have been caused by countries switching away from gas boilers as a result of the energy crisis and goals to achieve net zero.
According to the International Energy Agency, around three million heat pumps were sold in Europe in 2022, a 40% increase from the previous year and bringing the total to over 20 million.
ECIU energy analyst Jess Ralston said: “The switch to clean heat is continuing at pace outside of the UK as the US and Europe learn their lesson from the gas crisis. It’s starting to look like we haven’t.
“The UK’s existing boiler manufacturers must be able to see the writing on the wall.
“With clear signals from Government on the future of heating at home, we can take our expertise abroad and get ahead on heat pumps before we lose our place amongst the leaders of the world’s heating industry.”
Although heat pumps are often more efficient than gas boilers, many individuals find the cost of installation to be prohibitive.
Fitting a heat pump costs between £2,000 and £5,000, but many homes also require remedial work to make them more effective, which may bring the overall cost to between £15,000 and £25,000, according to Luke Sheppard, a gas boiler-turned-heat pump installer from Peacehaven, East Sussex.
Homes in England and Wales that have cavity wall and loft insulation and a current Energy Performance Certificate are eligible for a government payment of £5,000 towards a heat pump under the Boiler Upgrade Scheme, while homes in Scotland may qualify for up to £7,500 in funding.
Heat pumps are not covered by grants in Northern Ireland, however there is up to £1,000 available for a new gas boiler or to help make the conversion to a wood pellet boiler.
The UK government has set a goal of installing 600,000 heat pumps annually by 2028, but its advisors have cautioned that the country is presently considerably behind schedule and that other European nations are far ahead.
A spokesman for the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero said: “We’re investing billions to improve energy efficiency across the country, with over £81 million in vouchers issued to installers in the first year of our Boiler Upgrade Scheme.
“We are seeking to boost domestic production of heat pumps through the Heat Pump Investment Accelerator Competition as part of our aim of realising a 30-fold increase in the number of heat pumps made in the UK by 2028.
“We are fully focused on meeting our aim of 600,000 heat pump installations a year by this date – and consumers can now install one for an increasingly similar price to a gas boiler.”
Ireland purchased roughly £50 million worth of gas boilers from the UK in 2022, but beginning in 2025, broken boilers will need to be equipped with a non-fossil fuel system.
The Netherlands will continue permit hybrid systems, although Germany and the Netherlands, which respectively imported £4 million and £1.3 million worth of central heating products from the UK in 2022, have objectives to phase out fossil fuel boilers by 2025 and 2026.
As part of the Future houses Standard, the UK government has pledged to phase out gas boilers in new houses starting in 2025, however it has not yet officially endorsed a proposed ban on all fossil fuel boilers in off-gas grid homes starting in 2026.
It has announced that it will implement the clean heat market mechanism starting in 2024, requiring all fossil fuel boiler manufacturers to produce a specific percentage of heat pumps. The goal is to phase out all gas boilers in the UK starting in 2035.