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Energy industry reacts to NAO’s report on UK’s slow progress

The National Audit Office report has underscored the slow progress in transitioning households to clean heating, citing failures in government initiatives such as the Boiler Upgrade Scheme.

In response to the latest National Audit Office report on decarbonising home heating, Stew Horne, head of policy at Energy Saving Trust, emphasises the gap between the government’s heat pump ambitions and public awareness, urging mechanisms to reduce heat pump running costs and consistent energy advice.

Stew Horne said: “Market mechanisms are one part of the picture – people should be supported from the very start of their heat pump journey with consistent, impartial and tailored advice on how to navigate what can be a complex home retrofit process.

“The lack of consistent provision of tailored energy advice in England, remains a significant barrier. The cost of setting up a digitally-led advice service would be a fraction of the amount being committed by this government to decarbonise homes. It would, however, maximise uptake of existing funding schemes, help galvanise the market and would therefore have a high return on investment.”

Jess Ralston, Energy Analyst at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, criticises the government’s lack of action, citing failures in promoting schemes like the Boiler Upgrade Scheme and delays in implementing initiatives like the Clean Heat Market Mechanism, which prolong reliance on gas.

Jess Ralston said: “These all have consequences; heat pump uptake is slow, uncertainty is hampering investment, and our energy independence as a country is weaker as we’ll have to import more gas as the North Sea continues its decline.

“Citizen’s Advice says scrapping the Clean Heat Market Mechanism would ‘hurt’ households by leaving them vulnerable to volatile international gas prices.

“Industry, consumer groups and now government advisors are all urging the government to learn from its mistakes, develop a clear long term policy to correct them, and stand up to lobbying from the incumbent gas industry if there is to be any hope of turning this progress around.”

Katrina Young, Practice Manager (Heat Policy & Local Energy) at Energy Systems Catapult, emphasised the challenges outlined in the NAO report regarding the need for rapid and widespread decarbonisation of home heating.

While policy support has traditionally focused on reducing upfront costs for heat pumps and insulation, Young highlighted the importance of addressing other barriers, such as minimising the running costs of electrified heating compared to gas boilers.

Katrina Young said: “The rebalancing of policy levies and charges on electricity and gas bills is crucial to incentivise low carbon heating technologies. All options on the table, however, have potentially unequal distributional impacts on households, and the extent to which the policy will affect the heating system choice of consumers is uncertain.

“The Electrification of Heat Demonstration Project – led by Energy Systems Catapult – found that one of the key barriers faced by consumers when getting a heat pump was the perceived disruption to their home during the installation.

“Improving the consumer experience is fundamental to the acceleration of heat pump installation. This includes providing clear, trusted advice and support throughout the process.

“The NAO highlights the value of Local Area Energy Plans as an approach to strategically coordinate the decarbonisation of heating. The scenario modelling can provide cost-effective whole systems plans for a local area and identify “low regret” projects that can ramp up the deployment of low carbon heating.

“The next step is to make sure that these plans don’t sit on a shelf, and to enable local government to take projects forward.”

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