Experts at EDF have issued a dire warning, as the UK’s plan to boost heat pump rollout across the country could be scuppered by a critical shortage of trained installers. Over the past year, heat pumps have been tipped as a major solution to the global fossil fuel energy crisis, which was triggered by Russia’s manipulation of the wholesale natural gas markets. Heat pumps, which run on electricity – potentially generated by renewables – decrease the UK’s reliance on gas imports. Given that the technology is far more efficient than a traditional gas boiler, heat pumps have also been hailed as a viable solution to slash energy bills.
To help this rollout, the Government has set a target of installing 600,000 heat pumps per year by 2028, however, Philippe Commaret, Managing Director for Customers at EDF, noted that to hit this target, the UK needs to train a lot more engineers.
According to the latest estimates from the MCS, currently, there are less than 4,000 qualified heat pump installers in the UK compared to more than 100,000 gas-safe engineers.
Writing in HVP Magazine, he said: “We have the opportunity to grow the economy and create the workforce needed to carry out these vital improvements. For this to change, the industry needs to react quickly and upskill workforces in order to help hit the target .”
To tackle this issue, EDF along with CB Heating and Daikin launched a new Training Academy last month, based in Clacton-on-Sea, with a goal to help drive the nationwide upskilling of heat pump installers.
The new facility has the capacity to train up to 4,000 installers a year using Daikin equipment and products and will involve a range of Daikin and BPEC-accredited courses.
Mr Commaret continued: “We are encouraging all relevant professionals and businesses to embrace this new challenge, whether it be through our program or similar schemes.
“Not only will this produce more qualified installers ready and able to support the UK on its journey to 600,000 heat pumps in the next six years, it will also drive the industry one step closer to protecting households from the instability of global fossil fuel markets. “
He added that this facility could help support more households to end their reliance on expensive and polluting natural gas imports through heat pump installations.
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He said: “If we are able to change the way we heat our homes, we are significantly less reliant on the unpredictable market that is currently causing so many issues for people across the country.”
Heat pumps have an efficiency rating of over 300 percent compared to traditional gas boilers, which have an efficiency of approximately 92 percent, losing at least 8 percent of the energy through the process of burning fossil fuels.
Another benefit is that heat pumps have a potential working life of up to 20 years, far longer than a traditional boiler, enabling households to cut their carbon emissions by more than 23 tonnes of CO2 over a decade.
According to EDF, once trained, the engineers would continue to receive support from Daikin, EDF and CB Heating in safely and efficiently installing the technology nationwide.
Hailing the site, Business and Energy Minister Lord Callanan said last month: “Heat pumps are highly efficient and reliable and are key to cutting carbon emissions using cheaper renewable energy produced here in the UK.
“By training thousands of highly skilled heat pump installers, the new Heat Pump Installer Network Training Academy will help drive us towards improving the energy performance of our buildings and deploying low-carbon heating across the country.
“Green energy is opening huge growth and job opportunities right on our doorsteps, and we’re ensuring the cost of installing a heat pump is being slashed with £5,000 grants through the Boiler Upgrade Scheme and a zero rate of VAT, so it becomes an affordable option to more households than ever before.”
Clayton Browne, Managing Director at CB Heating, said: “To give any installer the opportunity to acquire the skills they need to confidently move away from dealing with fossil fuel systems is a very proud moment for us.
“We cannot achieve our national heat pump goals without upskilling existing installers and training new ones, so the provision of proper training facilities is essential. With EDF and Daikin UK, we have created an academy experience unlike anything else in the UK today.”