Publication - Minutes

Heat Pump Sector Deal Expert Advisory Group minutes: February 2021

Published: 8 Jun 2021
Date of meeting: 18 Feb 2021
Location: Microsoft Teams

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 18 February 2021.

Published:
8 Jun 2021
Heat Pump Sector Deal Expert Advisory Group minutes: February 2021

Attendees and apologies

Attendees:

  • Mike Thornton, Energy Savings Trust (Chair) 
  • Lewis Shand Smith, Energy Consumers Commission
  • Paul Jordan, Energy Systems Catapult
  • Phil Hurley, Heat Pump Association 
  • Ian Rippin, Microgeneration Certification Scheme
  • Rodney Ayre, Mitsubishi 
  • Clementine Cowton, Octopus
  • Andrew Bruce, Scottish Futures Trust
  • Helen Melone, Scottish Renewables 
  • Martyn Raine, SNIPEF
  • Dave Pearson, Star Refrigeration 
  • Lukas Bergmann, Sunamp
  • Stewart Wilson, TIG 
  • Ross Armstrong, Warmworks 
  • Graeme Bruce, West Highland Housing Association 

Scottish Government:

  • Craig Frew
  • Alastair Robertson
  • Ian Cuthbert

Apologies:

  • Andy Mason
  • Andrew Bissell
  • Caroline Bragg

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions 

The Chair introduced the session. The minutes for the previous meeting had been shared beforehand and were accepted by the group. 

Presentation from SNIPEF and discussion on People

Martyn Raine of SNIPEF presented to the group on the challenges and opportunities of increasing the number of heat pump installers and transitioning those working on conventional oil and gas boilers. Some of the key points made within this were: 

  • qualified plumbers may only need quick upskilling courses to enable them to install heat pumps. SNIPEF members have plenty of demand for their services on conventional heating systems. It will therefore be difficult to encourage them to upskill on heat pumps
  • there is a threat that the numbers of plumbers will decrease in coming years with increasing retirement due to an aging workforce
  • governments have not promoted their green agendas sufficiently to convince businesses that there is or will be a demand for low carbon heating
  • within Modern Apprenticeships, considerably more apprentices choose a gas pathway– this decision is largely dependent on direction from the apprentices’ employers
  • it is difficult for older people to enter the sector because apprenticeships and funding support is aimed at young people. This makes it difficult to utilise skilled workers from other sectors such as O and G
  • registration and certification requirements for heating engineers are difficult for small businesses and should perhaps be streamlined
  • the funding offers for heat pumps are complex and confusing, these should be presented in a simplified way to help installers understand what is available

The presentation was followed by discussion on skills and encouraging apprentices and skilled workers to enter the heat pump sector.

Ideas were suggested on how to evidence to installers that there is a demand for heat pump services, such as having waiting lists of customers or databases of properties which have heat loss calculations completed. 

A member explained that from their experience of deploying heat pumps, when there has been increased roll-out through government schemes, they’ve seen a growth in apprentices and installers moving to work on heat pumps. If there are the correct conditions for investment then the supply chain will react, but the opportunities need to be visible to businesses. 

There was a question raised on why the number of new apprentices was limited within plumbing generally. It was suggested this is because of the heavy reliance on businesses to make strong commitments to apprentices and support them for 4 years. More needs to be done to encourage young people into the sector by identifying pathways into apprenticeships and taking advantage of youth engagement in climate change action.

A point was raised that the number of installers needed to support the Scottish Government’s installation targets should be identified to help understand the scale of the challenge. The Heat Pump Association have estimated figures for the total heat pump installers across the UK up to 2035.

It was suggested that it may be better to focus on ensuring installers are trained in low flow temperature heating generally, which would also be beneficial for those working on gas boilers and can act as a step to upskilling on heat pumps. This could be incorporated into the refresher training that gas installers are required to complete.  

There was a discussion on how to overcome the upfront costs for installers from undertaking new training. Costs could be covered by a loan which is repaid by taking a portion of income from each renewable installation, therefore meaning the installer wouldn’t have to pay unless sufficient demand materialised. This was then countered that rather than recovering costs from heat pump installations, it should be recovered from a levy on gas boiler installations. 

On funding support, a point was made that other European countries are funding support schemes from long-term, stable sources which are not dependent on government budgets. An approach like this in the UK would provide businesses with more confidence on the market demand. A similar comment was made on funding for skills, which was said to be piecemeal with short-term initiatives which do not provide certainty for businesses. 

It was raised that the skills consultation recently published to support the Draft Heat in Buildings Strategy includes a skills matrix for installers which the Scottish Government and MCS aim to incorporate into the MCS installer standards. 

The group discussed diversity in the industry and within plumbing generally, and how this could be improved. The lack of information available on diversity in the sector was commented on. SNIPEF are currently working to get an understanding of this from the Modern Apprentices.

A key theme of the discussion was changing the perception of plumbing and heat engineering so to attract more diverse workers. The sector could be more appealing to people from different backgrounds if the importance of these jobs in reducing carbon emissions were advertised. More has to be done to present the pathways through the industry, what directions people can take and what they can achieve. It was suggested that ‘net-zero’ apprenticeships could attract young people and show them there are options beyond what they perceive to be typical plumbing jobs. It was also raised that decarbonising heat will require a variety of jobs and people with different skillsets, including the design of large scale heat projects and property surveying.

A point was raised that it may be difficult for the group to fully appreciate the complexity of diversity issues whilst tackling the wider barriers of heat pump deployment in the same process. 

Discussion on place 

The group discussed the benefits of a house-by-house approach in rural areas and how this can result in better consumer experiences with higher quality installations by considering specific needs. There was uncertainty on whether it would be better for network operators to have heat pumps installed in concentrated areas or to be more dispersed initially. 

Questions were raised on how to deliver house-by-house yet benefit from economies of scale– this could be achieved by installing heat pumps in multiple houses at the same time where consumers are on board. Suggestions were provided on how to reduce costs, potentially by better integration into house building and through innovative business models such as Heat as a Service (HaaS). This could be an area of opportunity if there were to be a publically-owned energy supplier in Scotland. 

There was a suggestion that heat pump manufacturers may have preference in dealing with large clients with higher volume orders, which would be detrimental to a house-by-house approach. It was clarified that this is dictated by heat pump distributors rather than manufacturers. 

The group reflected on the need to take a ‘fabric first’ approach. There is concern that consumers’ bills will increase significantly without improving building fabric before installing heat pumps. This was contested because there are large portions of Scotland’s housing stock which should not require improvements to make heat pumps operate efficiently. This would be clarified by widespread completion of room-by-room heat loss calculations, which would give government an understanding of how many homes will need fabric upgrades as well better preparing homes for heat pump installations when their current system fails. It was pointed out that with HaaS models, it is in the best interest of the supplier to invest in improving building fabric.

It was suggested that there is a hierarchy of opportunity in urban areas, starting with new builds and recently built homes. Heat networks will also be important to decarbonising flats and dense urban areas. 

A point was raised that there are lessons to be learned from the smart meter roll-out and that heat pumps should not be forced on people. This developed into a wider conversation on the merits of area-based schemes such as Local Heat and Energy Efficiency Strategies (LHEES). It was proposed that ‘zoning’ would not have the best interests of consumers, and that a combination of an attractive heat pump market with free consumer choice would be more affective. 

A counter-point was made that leaving the decarbonisation of heat to natural market progression would not be sufficient given the scale of the challenge, and could result in consumers being excluded. There is fuel poverty legislation which would prevent any approach which leaves rural consumers behind. Clarity in local planning also would provide direction for networks operators and evidence of the investment need for them to provide to Ofgem. 

It was then suggested that both approaches could be utilised with a combination of legislating to decarbonise homes whilst ensuring low carbon options are made attractive to consumers. 

Installer workshop

The group were reminded that the Terms of Reference state the Scottish Government will support a workshop with installers to provide information to the group. 

Conclusion and closing remarks 

Officials raised the point that the activities of the group are receiving attention at ministerial level from not just the Minister for Energy but other ministers too.

A member made the point that the gas industry may be making misleading claims around the viability of hydrogen gas for heating. The expert advisory group have a responsibility to highlight the merits of heat pumps as an option. 

The Chair explained the process of drafting the interim report to the group. Members agreed to share the chat log from the meeting.

The Chair thanked the group for their time, pointing out that the next meeting will take place on March 22nd to review the draft of the interim report. The meeting was brought to a close.