National targets for replacing gas boilers in the push to net zero are based on unrealistic assumptions about the number of installers required, a trade group has warned.
The Energy and Utilities Alliance (EUA) estimates almost three times as many installers than planned for will be required if the Government is to meet its targets for rolling out electric heat pumps.
Mike Foster, chief executive of the EUA, says underestimating the number of workers “deals a hammer blow” to the heat pump rollout ambitions.
He added: “The world and his dog know it takes considerably longer to fit a heat pump than replace a gas boiler, yet it seems this basic fact has been ignored by Whitehall officials desperate to stick to a plan no one believes in.”
Most homes in Britain are heated by gas-fired boilers, but this is a major source of carbon emissions and will need to change if thc country is to meet its aim of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Replacing gas boilers with electric heat pumps is one way to do this, and the Government wants roughly 600,000 to be installed each year by 2028.
It has pointed to research by the Heat Pump Assocation, a rival trade group, in 2020 which indicates about 50,200 heat pump installers will be needed by 2030, climbing to 69,500 by 2035.
However, the EUA argues the figure is likely to be more than 140,000 by 2028 to hit the roll-out target, given the time it takes to fit heat pumps and the other work and admin tasks that generally occupy a heating installer’s time.
Mr Foster added: “We are both suggesting that the target figure is wrong and won’t deliver 600,000 heat pumps a year and also suggesting ways in which the industry can help the government train more installers.” More than 40,000 heat pumps were installed in the UK in 2021.
The Heating and Hotwater Industry Council, a subsidiary of the EUA, will say in a report on Monday that to meet the roll-out targets, about 55,500 boiler installers will need to be upskilled, and 87,000 new heat pump installers will need to be trained. Estimates suggest there were about 3,000 heat pump engineers in Britain as of the middle of 2022.
The report assumes heat pumps take about three times as long to install compared to a gas boiler, and assumes similar working patterns to a typical gas installer, who it says spends more than half of their time on other tasks such as servicing, repair and plumbing.
“The principal aim of this work is to highlight that many more new installers are required in the industry to achieve the Government targets for installation of the 600,000 heat pumps by 2028,” it adds.
The EUA represents companies that make and install radiators, boilers, heat pumps, gas meters, and heat networks, including Worcestor Bosch and Baxi. It says the research on installer numbers was led by a senior manager from Vaillant, which makes boilers and heat pumps in Belper, Derbyshire.
The future of home heating is the subject of intense lobbying as policy starts to shape, and companies try to promote their technologies.
The EUA has been skeptical about heat pumps, highlighting challenges such as power supply, and supportive of hydrogen boilers. In December it wrote to the Government urging them to carry out village-scale trials of heat pumps.
The Heat Pump Association, which said its members represent 95pc of the heat pump market by manufacturing share, said it was “confident that the resources are in place to meet government heat pump installation targets and that the installer base is robust enough to help ramp up heat pump deployment”.
A spokesman for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial strategy said heating engineers could train to install heat pumps in one week, adding there are more than 110,000 domestic heating engineers in the UK.
The spokesman added it was confident its plans would “deliver the skilled workforce we need as we accelerate our progress towards net-zero greenhouse gas emissions”.
He added: “Industry groups are confident of enough capacity to train installers as heat pump deployment increases.
“The Heat Pump Association has estimated that we will need at least 50,200 heat pump installers by 2030 and their modelling accounts for the time taken to install a heat pump.”