CSE responds to Government Heat and Buildings strategy

19 October 2021

The government has today launched the much anticipated Heat and Buildings strategy including plans for £5,000 grants to support people to install heat pumps and other low-carbon boiler replacements in their homes. This forms part of a commitment for £3.9bn funding to decarbonise how we heat our buildings, with a 2035 target for all new heating systems in UK homes to be energy-efficient.

As a mission-led charity working to test new approaches to installing low carbon technologies, CSE is pleased to see the new Heat and Buildings strategy making these solutions mainstream. But the major challenge will be ensuring work is done first to ensure technologies like heat pumps work effectively and actually deliver low carbon and lower energy bills.

To meet our heat decarbonisation targets we need joined-up solutions to organise supply chains around green housing retrofit and low carbon heating installation alongside support and independent advice for home owners to make these changes.

From our recent experience with the failed Green Homes Grant scheme, where hundreds of people contacted us for advice, we know people need support and guidance through the process of low carbon home improvements. Currently, there’s no funding available for CSE or other impartial advice agencies to support to people on their low carbon journey. It is unlikely heat decarbonisation targets will be met without the necessary information and advice for home owners.

Growth and jobs

A big challenge with the Green Homes Grant scheme was finding contractors who were able to do the necessary work. The building supply chain’s capacity to service a huge growth in demand is something CSE has been working to address in our Futureproof programme. The strategy mentions the Futureproof Essentials training which The Green Register developed as part of this programme. This training is essential for construction professionals to develop the skills needed to provide high quality retrofit services.

But growing the supply chain takes long-term investment and further skills and training to bring new people into the sector. We know there is an aging workforce currently servicing our boilers and there are huge skills shortages in the construction sector. Figures from Gas Safe suggest around 97,000 current gas engineers (more than three quarters of the total workforce) will reach retirement age within the next decade.

Alongside an economic stimulus, we need to see an expansion of green skills and apprenticeships. Installing solid wall insulation or heat pumps correctly is a skilled job and this must be seen as a valuable career path by young people today.

Indeed, the Government’s ten point plan for a green industrial revolution identifies 50,000 jobs which will support making our homes, schools and hospitals greener and warmer through energy efficiency and heat pump installation. CSE hopes that, as a minimum, gas engineers due to retire in the next ten years will be replaced by heat pump engineers. This means we need to see a minimum of 100,000 new jobs in this space.

Heat networks

It’s good to see recognition in the Heat and Buildings strategy that there’s no single policy or technology that cuts carbon emissions to virtually zero. We know that there’s no silver bullet and that a diverse mix of technologies will be needed.

In urban areas with high heat density we would hope to see a more widespread deployment of heat networks. The core cities can be instrumental in planning these networks and ensuring they are deployed in the right areas.

CSE hopes that by 2035 local heat networks will be an essential part of the energy mix for many urban households.

Decarbonising our UK heating is one of the biggest challenges in the race to net zero and while it’s positive to see progress on this, there is still much work to be done to turn these plans into reality.

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