The UK’s electricity system operator, National Grid ESO, has emphasized the need for greater adoption of heat pumps in order to achieve the country’s net zero goals. In its recently released Future Energy Scenarios report, National Grid ESO stated that the current rate of heat pump installations is insufficient to meet the government’s targets, and called for a clear decision on the role of hydrogen in heating.
The report outlined various scenarios for achieving a fully decarbonized electricity system by 2035. Heat pumps are a key component of the government’s strategy to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050, with a target of 600,000 heat pump installations by 2028. These devices, which operate on electricity, extract energy from the air or ground, functioning like a fridge in reverse.
National Grid ESO stressed the importance of accelerating the decision-making process regarding the use of hydrogen in heating, as it impacts heat pump targets and incentives. The report warned that if heat pump uptake remains off-track and hydrogen for heat is not supported by 2026, increasing heat pump adoption will become more challenging and expensive. It called for additional policy support and incentives to boost heat pump uptake, in addition to the existing Boiler Upgrade Scheme.
According to the UK government’s Heat Pump Investment Roadmap strategy, achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050 requires the decarbonization of heating in over 30 million homes across the country within a little over 25 years. Heat pumps are expected to play a crucial role in this transition, with the government claiming that they can reduce carbon emissions by up to 70% compared to gas boilers. The government also plans to phase out the installation of new and replacement natural gas boilers by 2035 at the latest.
The National Grid expressed confidence that by 2025, there will be periods of “100 percent zero-carbon electricity, with no fossil fuels used to generate power in Great Britain.” However, the report acknowledged a high level of uncertainty regarding consumer behavior and lifestyle changes necessary for the transition to net zero. One scenario outlined in the report predicted the installation of over 23 million heat pumps, including hybrids, in homes by 2050, assuming high levels of electrification.
While National Grid ESO claims that heat pumps are three times more efficient than gas boilers, it is worth noting that experts have previously criticized these claims. TV presenter Roger Bisby, known for his expertise in the British building industry, has warned that families in the UK who have installed heat pumps often experience higher electricity bills, noise disturbances, colder homes, and lukewarm showers. Bisby has raised concerns about the effectiveness of regulating the heat pump industry and highlighted the need for a more realistic sales approach.
In conclusion, the National Grid ESO’s report emphasizes the need for greater adoption of heat pumps to achieve the UK’s net zero goals. It calls for a clear decision on the role of hydrogen in heating and highlights the importance of policy support and incentives. However, there are concerns about the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of heat pumps, with experts questioning the efficiency claims and highlighting potential challenges for homeowners.