This POSTnote summarises the developments in demand side response, evidence of its potential contribution to the decarbonisation of the power system, and the technical barriers associated to this tool.
Documents to download
Heat pumps (535 KB , PDF)
Heat pumps are a type of electrical heating that use heat from the external environment to provide space heating and hot water for buildings. They are more energy efficient than gas or direct electric heating and, when combined with decarbonised electricity, are a form of low-carbon heating. Heat pumps are widely used in some European countries but are currently installed in 1% of UK homes. The Climate Change Committee projects that, to reach net zero, domestic heat pumps will be needed in at least half, but likely closer to 80%, of homes by 2050.
The UK Government set out plans to scale up heat pump rollout in its 2021 Heat and Buildings Strategy. This POSTnote considers recent advances in the technology, their suitability for UK homes, barriers to their widescale deployment, and the UK and devolved policies that support their adoption.
- Heat pumps are a key technology for achieving net zero emissions from domestic heating. The UK Government has a target of 600,000 installations per year by 2028 and 72,000 were installed in 2022.
- Heat pumps are technically suitable for most UK homes if installed appropriately. The supply chain has significant growth potential, but stakeholders indicate it is currently constrained by a lack of consumer demand and government policy uncertainty.
- Heat pump installation costs are higher than gas boilers, in part due to the need for additional retrofitting. Large cost reductions are unlikely. New finance options and government support could make them more affordable.
- Heat pumps currently have similar running costs to gas boilers. Reducing the price of electricity relative to gas would make heat pumps more competitive. Additional savings are possible with flexible electricity tariffs.
- The public’s interest in and understanding of heat pumps is low. A lack of qualified heat pump installers is a further potential barrier to rollout, as are constraints imposed by planning rules and the need for electricity infrastructure upgrades.
- The UK Government’s Boiler Upgrade Scheme provides grants to assist with installation costs. Support is also available for installers and manufacturers to expand supply chains. Other measures are being considered as part of the Energy Bill.
POSTnotes are based on literature reviews and interviews with a range of stakeholders and are externally peer reviewed. POST would like to thank interviewees and peer reviewers for kindly giving up their time during the preparation of this briefing, including:
Members of the POST Board*
Ting Guo Ho, Department for Energy Security and Net Zero
Matthew Aylott, Department for Energy Security and Net Zero*
Samantha Magor, Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities*
Keeran Jugdoyal, Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities
Suzie Willis, Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities
Amy Brookes, Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities*
Hugh O’Dowd, Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities
David Joffe, Climate Change Committee*
Charlotte Lee, Heat Pump Association*
Tony Lathey, Heat Pump Association Technical Working Group
Louise Shooter, Energy UK*
Bean Beanland, Heat Pump Federation*
Kevin Wellman, Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering*
John Thompson, Association of Heating and Plumbing Contractors
Richard Warren, Kensa Group*
Dan Roberts, Kensa Heat Pumps
Martin Passingham, Daikin UK*
Jenny Crawley, University College London*
Phil Heptonstall, Imperial College London*
Karen Turner, University of Strathclyde*
Antonios Katris, University of Strathclyde*
Sivapriya Bhagavathy, University of Strathclyde
Richard Hanna, Imperial College London
Richard Carmichael, Imperial College London*
Aidan Rhodes, Imperial College London
Jake Barnes, University of Oxford*
David Barns, University of Leeds*
Catherine Bale, University of Leeds*
Fleur Loveridge, University of Leeds*
Alice Owen, University of Leeds*
Simon Rees, University of Leeds*
Daniel Logue, Energy Systems Catapult
Louise Kew, Energy Systems Catapult
Richard Hauxwell-Baldwin, Microgeneration Certification Scheme*
David Cowdrey, Microgeneration Certification Scheme
Richard Lowes, Regulatory Assistance Project*
Ian Preston, Centre for Sustainable Energy
Claire Wilson, Centre for Sustainable Energy
Will Rivers, Carbon Trust*
Stew Horne, Energy Saving Trust*
Rebecca Pickavance, Energy Saving Trust
Leo Vincent, E3G
Cara Holmes, Citizens Advice
Suzanna Hinson, Green Finance Institute
Maria Dutton, Green Finance Institute*
Andrew Sissons, Nesta*
* Denotes people who acted as external reviewers of this briefing
Documents to download
Heat pumps (535 KB , PDF)
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