Boiler Upgrade Scheme update: a mixed picture

Officially launched in April, the Boiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS) was established to help with the government’s plan for the decarbonisation of buildings by replacing fossil fuel boilers with renewable heating systems. Typically, as part of the scheme, consumers will receive a £5,000 grant for air source heat pumps (and biomass boilers in very specific circumstances) and £6,000 for ground source heat pump installations. The scheme is expected to remain running for three years. Given the ambition of the scheme, the roll out was never going to be fast, but how is it all going?

The latest quarterly statistics show a mixed picture. According to Ofgem’s between May and July 2022, BUS received 4,186 voucher applications. The number of BUS vouchers issued was 2,930 with a total value £14,711,000. Voucher redemption applications received were 1,208 and the number of vouchers redeemed 912. The total value of grants paid was £4,589,000. The main fuel sources displaced were oil (240) and gas (484) with direct electric in third place (56).

Recent data from the European Heat Pump Association (EHPA) has shown the UK to have installed the lowest number of heat pumps across Europe in the last year – just 1.48 per 1000 households. This equates to taking 600 years to reach the 2050 target of 27.2 million homes having a heat pump. Research is even more startling according to The Ground Source Heat Pump Association. They report that members have yet to see any upswing in heat pump enquiries since the scheme launched. In fact, conversely, Ground Source Heat Pump Association report that 62% of members, have seen a drop in customer enquiries for heat pumps since the launch, and 86% of members feel that a heat pump is less investable than a year ago.

What’s happening isn’t entirely clear, but lower than forecast applications have no doubt not been helped by the cost of living crisis which continues to spiral out of control..

It’s really important that we do not lose the impetus that has – however tentatively – been kickstarted by BUS. Talking to HIES heat pump installers, they tell us that we need to continue getting accurate messaging out to consumers about the pay back periods; and positive impact on ongoing heating bills; the lack of disruption caused by switching from fossil fuel boilers; counter the misinformation that they don’t heat to high enough temperatures, and even challenge head-on any preconceived ideas of what the pumps look like.

It does look like these important messages are getting through to the end-users with consumer opinion shifting to being pro renewable heating. The latest Home Public Attitudes Tracker Research by BEIS shows that 24% of UK homeowners are now likely to install a heat pump. Collectively we need to increase this understanding, desire and incentivisation to switch from fossil fuels, because clean electric heat pumps have such an important role to play in providing the backbone of the UK’s future heating mix.