Meeting the government’s target for installing heat pumps may require up to three times the 50,000 technicians which Whitehall foresees, industry experts now estimate.
By 2028, the government’s Heat and Buildings Strategy aims to have instals running at 600,000 a year. A meagre 35,000 devices were installed in 2020, as Covid lockdowns bit.
Two years ago trade body the Heat Pump Association launched a recruitment drive to train up more specialists. Doubling the existing base of 3,200 qualified installers by this year would start expansion towards 50,000 by 2030, it was hoped.
New research into installers’ working practices released today by a committee of systems practitioners at the Heating & Hotwater Industry Council finds that Whitehall’s numbers need more steam pressure built up behind them.
From its investigations, the HHIC’s systems group concludes that around 150,000 installation workers – not 50,000 – may be necessary to meet the government’s target.
The implied figure of 100,000 new recruits to be attracted to design and fit heat systems is close to the total of all qualified technicians named on today’s national Gas Safe Register, the researchers point out.
“The industry is at a pivotal point”, declared committee chair Steve Keeton. ”With an ageing workforce and more demand for modernised skills, we must look to new entrants as fundamental to providing the solution”.
Whitehall too must seek new ways of spurring heating engineers to upskill into renewable technologies, Keeton added. Attracting younger people to the industry, and determinedly adding low-carbon technologies to their skills portfolios were the cornerstone of achieving Britain’s emissions goals.
No single silver bullet exists to purge carbon from Britain’s heating systems, the industry body acknowledges. Hydrogen-ready boilers, – pictured – favoured as one low carbon solution once gas-only boilers are banned from new homes after 2025, should already be featuring on training programmes, the HHIC believes.
The government’s promotion of hydrogen to heat homes in future is backed by UK manufacturers’ ‘price promise,’ Keeton notes. In other words, new boilers installed in 1.7 million homes each year could be switched over at no cost to consumers.
“If Britain is to successfully meet our 2050 ambitions, heat networks and hydrogen must be part of the strategy, in tandem with heat pumps,“ the training spokesperson added.
“We must work from the grassroots up in order to create the bedrock of multi-skilled installers to successfully decarbonise the heating economy.”
For more about the research, visit the HHIC Website here.