UK Heat Pump Manufacturing Holds Potential For Economy and Jobs

14th December 2020

Attracting manufacturing of heat pumps to the UK could be worth more than £5.5 billion to the economy and create thousands of low-carbon jobs, according to a new study we carried out for the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

With the government announcing that it intends to install 600,000 heat pumps every year by 2028, the vastly increased demand will provide a significant opportunity to boost domestic manufacturing to meet this target. Under such a high heat pump demand scenario, there is the potential for existing UK heat pump manufacturers and those the UK is hoping to attract to meet around two thirds of UK demand with domestic manufacture by 2035, creating an end-user product value of £5.5 billion. The estimated product value could be further supplemented by income generated by increased exports to Europe and further afield.

Transitioning to heat pumps will also create new jobs without making the existing gas boiler workforce obsolete. The gas boiler and heat pump industries have complementary skill sets and a transition would be feasible, transferring the current estimated workforce to protect jobs and harness existing skills.

Currently, there are approximately 240,000 operational heat pumps in the UK, the majority of which are imported. These represent just 1% of all installed heating systems in the UK – there are estimated to be 26 million oil and gas boilers.

Decarbonising domestic heating will form a crucial part of the UK’s path towards net zero carbon emissions by 2050, with space and water heating in domestic and non-domestic buildings (excluding industry) accounting for 23% of total UK carbon emissions in 2016. Along with decarbonisation of the electricity grid, heat pumps are seen as one of the main options for decarbonising heating and are set to feature in upcoming strategy documents.

Heat pumps use a very cold refrigerant to absorb energy from the environment, heating it up. Electricity is then used to power a compressor that compresses this refrigerant, heating it further.  The heat is then transferred to a building’s heating systems to be distributed through radiators, underfloor heating and warm air. This system has a lower climate impact than a conventional fossil fuel system, such as a gas boiler, with at least 2 units of heat energy for every 1 unit of low-carbon energy put in, whereas a condensing gas boiler produces CO2 and is only around 90% efficient.

The added value brought to the UK economy by domestic manufacturing of heat pumps can be further boosted through investing in R&D into new types of refrigerant, designing heat pumps with greater modularity, greater use of smart tariffs and designing large-scale heat pumps for industrial applications.

Sam Taylor, Principal Consultant at Eunomia, said: “For the UK to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, widespread decarbonisation of domestic heating must take place, to which a transition to heat pumps can make a significant contribution. The manufacture of heat pumps in the UK is a viable option with great potential, in particular for current UK boiler manufacturers or those looking to futureproof their operations. The sector has a great opportunity for growth and supportive measures can ensure a greater proportion of the UK and European market share is met by UK manufacturing and is supported by UK innovations.”

You can read the report in full on the government website.

Image courtesy of Kristoferb via Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported)