UK heat pump market has weathered Covid-19 challenges. Coherent policy support is now needed to unlock its full potential.

by Krystyna Dawson, BSRIA Commercial Director

BSRIA has released its latest global heat pump market reports, including the eagerly awaited report on the status of the UK heat pump market.

Last spring, deep uncertainty set in across the markets as lockdowns in many countries disrupted trading. There was fear within the heat pump industry of a significant slowdown in what had previously shown dynamic market growth.

Indeed, the global heat pump market posted a decrease of 1.5% in 2020. However, performance varied across regions: with 12% market growth year-on-year, Europe has been at the forefront; the UK also saw positive development with heat pump sales increasing by 9.2% in 2020.  

Green Homes Grant

UK heat pump market sales were helped by the RHI and the Green Homes Grant scheme in 2020. The latter has proven to be important for the market, which has seen sustained growth in the refurbishment segment despite the number of installations in new buildings stalling due to the lower level of new home completions.

However, heat pump installation still represents a major challenge in existing homes. The ongoing review of Part L and Part F of building regulations offer hope that refurbishments in homes and buildings will be conceived with low carbon heating in mind, but the review’s outcomes are yet to become a legal requirement.

Moreover, even though there is market potential for a higher number of heat pump installations in existing homes, the government has, so far, been unable to unlock it. The Saturday 27th March announcement of the closing of the Green Home Grant scheme to new applicants by 31st March 2021 has been yet another example of the disappointing approach to deployment of energy efficiency measures and heat pumps.

UK heat pump market: Achieving a net zero carbon economy

Heat pumps are among the technologies the government has identified as key to achieving a net zero carbon economy by 2050. The Prime Minister’s 10 Point Plan for the UK Green Industrial Revolution includes the target to deploy 600,000 heat pumps a year by 2028.

The UK saw around 37,000 heat pumps sold in 2020. The extra £300 million in funding, moved from the soon-to-be defunct Green Homes Grant to local authorities to enable energy efficiency upgrades for lower income households, may bring additional installations. But even if all 30,000 applicable homes were fitted with heat pumps, the numbers are insufficient to sustain hope of reaching the PM’s ambitious target.. There is potential for more heat pump installations in existing homes, and the interest in heat pumps is growing among home and building owners. The heat pump industry is also working at full speed to deliver innovative products that respond to end-user expectations and environmental challenges.

HVAC industry skills gap

However, unless demand from existing homes and buildings is unlocked at full scale, and until real attention is paid to the sufficient availability of a skilled workforce, the heat pump market will struggle to see the acceleration needed to reach the government target and make a difference in the level of carbon emissions from UK homes and buildings.

Coherent policy and financial support are needed to match the readiness to act on both industry and consumer sides. Integration of heat pumps in a home or a commercial building requires a holistic approach where design and affordability should be considered to deliver carbon savings, cost savings and a healthy and comfortable environment.

2019 China Heating Market Dynamics

China has by far the largest heating market in the world in terms of units manufactured and sold. In 2019, a little over 40,000,000 units, including, boilers, water heaters and heat pumps, were sold in China. The country also has the world’s largest network of pipes supplying gas for heating systems. China has been developing its gas network very actively over the last years and consequently the country’s total building area covered by gas pipework has more than doubled in the past 15 years. Growing accessibility of gas across the country, coupled with government’s efforts to tackle air pollution and green house gas emissions underlines the potential for continuous growth of heating in the country. To give it some perspective, the sales of gas domestic boilers have grown 10-fold in the last 11 years.

 

boilers6

Source:  BSRIA

 

Today, the heating market is shaped by three areas of sales impact, each having its own dynamic:

  1. Government policy represented mainly by “Coal to gas” and “Coal to electricity” projects

Coupled with expansion of the gas network, stronger governance, better product quality and more competitive gas prices this policy is continuing to strongly impact sales of gas fuelled products, in line with the Chinese government’s 5-year plan (2016-2020 – 3th 5-year plan.

The policy has also a strong impact on the progression of the heat pump market, mainly for water heating, although growth of heat pumps for both, heating and hot water provision has also grown in the recent years.

Compared with the vigorous “coal-to-gas” and “coal-to-electricity” projects in the domestic market, commercial boilers have higher requirements for large-scale, stable and constant fuel supply and corresponding infrastructure construction, which makes the transition from coal to cleaner energy more difficult. Nevertheless, a moderate growth was also seen in the commercial gas boiler and commercial heat pump markets.

  1. Regular project market (new build)

New build is currently driving sales of heating products thanks to the existing pre-decoration policy, which is currently supported by local government to deliver fully fitted buildings, with operational heating systems installed.

The importance of the new build market is significant in China as it delivered sales of some 1.5 million gas boilers and over 900 thousand heat pumps to the new residential dwellings.

  1. Retail market (replacement and high-end new build)

Retail distribution chain has a strong impact on sales of all heating products as it is the most common place of provision of products for clients. Those replacing old, inefficient appliances or willing to install the appliances of their own choice in the newly acquired dwellings source them in retail shops. This market is very sensitive to economic situation and changes quickly depending on the consumer confidence level. It represents a large opportunity as there are millions of heating systems in China, which are older than 10 years – the time after which replacement is normally considered. Similarly, in many new houses owners opt to have better quality heat systems than those installed by the contractor as part of the pre-decoration policy.

With regards to district heating, the market has accelerated in recent years as policies to deal with air quality have been promoted and investments have been made. There are currently more than 400 projects underway and nearly 100 enterprises engaged. The industry generally believes that the development of smart district heating projects opens attractive strategic opportunities.

However, China is in a period of low economic growth and dealing with the aftermath of COVID-19 implications. Both will have an impact on the performance of the country’s heating product sales this year.

BSRIA is preparing the updated view on 2020 market performance and short term forecast for boilers and heat pump markets that will be available in September 2020.


By Socrates Christidis, Research Manager Heating & Renewables,

BSRIA, World Wide Market Intelligence


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