It appears that no amount of criticism—including from Tory MPs—will discourage Prime Minister Rishi Sunak from working to replace oil boilers in British homes with costly heat pumps.
Reports suggest that the government has considered u-turning on its planned 2026 new oil-boiler ban. However, a new release from the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero this week paints a different picture. It is a fairly clear attempt to make shifting to heat pumps—as part of the energy department’s wider driver towards carbon net zero—more appealing, in that it offers “varied heat pump grants to improve access to low-carbon heating” and an improved “vouchers” system for those who make the change.
Tory Lord Callanan, who is minister for energy efficiency and green finance, said heat pumps will help “drive down costs and [boost] our energy security.” He added that:
Today’s changes go even further and will mean even more people could benefit from making the switch, offering them the option for a low-emission, low-cost form of heating their homes.
Critics have described the drive to increase heat pump use as an “embarrassment,” as government targets have so far been missed. The demand, it seems, is just not there.
Just 33,000 of the devices were installed across the whole of the UK last year, according to The Daily Telegraph—a far cry from the government’s target of 600,000 per year by 2028. This, former Environment Secretary George Eustice suggested in an article for the paper, is no surprise:
The cost [of heat pumps] is about four times that of a boiler.
Rural communities are about to have their own version of London’s ultra-low emission zone dumped on them. Furthermore, in coastal areas, the equipment can be prone to decay and rusting. Heat pumps require a lot of additional insulation which can also cause a lack of ventilation. In some old properties, reducing ventilation increases the risk of mould and associated health problems.
The Scottish National Party’s (SNP’s) heat pump drive has also been met with apathy, particularly by those Scots living in more remote areas. A cross-party group of politicians has warned that the devices will burden certain property owners with heavy costs and extreme weather-induced power outages.