The Government is discouraging the adoption of heat pumps through the very important ‘Energy Performance Certificate’ (EPC) system. The EPC system shows energy consumption for particular buildings and gives advice on how to reduce it. It is legally essential when selling properties. Incredibly, even when a property is entirely heated using ‘resistance’ electricity, and therefore especially suitable for heat pumps, the standard advice given for energy improvements fails to mention the most important single measure which is likely to be the conversion of the heating system to a heat pump. Various other piecemeal measures will be selected under the EPC system, but heat pumps are not explicitly promoted.
In fact heat pumps are likely to reduce the carbon footprint of heating (usually by far the largest element in domestic energy consumption) by around two-thirds. And remember, this includes circumstances where the house would need to pay for a gas connection before a gas boiler could be added, making gas connections quite expensive.
Now, I emphasise, it is not the EPC assessors that are to blame, it is the software that they have to work with that automatically throws up options for energy efficiency and renewable energy measures. So clearly this is a major Government failure. Government press statements promote heat pumps, but the most important driver at the public interface of the housing industry, the EPC system, actually discourages people from thinking about installing heat pumps even in the most obviously attractive situations for them.
We are still waiting for the software to be updated. Part of the problem is that the Government’s estimates of the carbon-reducing value of heat pumps is almost a decade out of date. The system still works on carbon outputs from the electricity system of 2012. In that year the carbon footprint of a kWh of electricity was more than twice what it is now. It seems that this disparity will not be changed until at least June 2022 when the building regulations covering energy efficiency are updated. Then the software giving people advice on how to reduce the carbon footprint of their homes might be changed. If we’re lucky!
The lack of urgency in doing something about this state of affairs exposes the gap between the Government’s public relations and its ongoing reality.