Heat Pump Sector Deal Expert Advisory Group minutes: January 2021

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 27 January 2021.

Attendees and apologies


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

Scottish Government:

  • Craig Frew
  • Alastair Robertson
  • Melanie Macrae


  • Andy Mason
  • Caroline Bragg
  • Clementine Cowton 

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions 

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

Draft Heat in Buildings Strategy presentation 

Scottish Government (SG) officials provided a presentation on the Draft Heat in Buildings Strategy (HBS), which is to be released in the coming days. The members of the group were encouraged to review the draft and the questions included once it is published and participate in the consultation. 

There was a question on whether the HBS has consideration of the various segments of heat use in Scotland and their specific challenges. It was confirmed that there had been research undertaken on the Scottish building stock to appreciate the different building archetypes and challenges. This also has relevance to ‘Place’ due to the dependence on local approaches to heat decarbonisation and area based plans. 

The importance placed on fuel poverty and consumer protection in SG plans was welcomed. It was highlighted that building fabric is a key point too, not only within the prevention of fuel poverty but also the enablement of heat pump deployment. A concern was raised that if heat pump deployment is left to occasions where the existing boiler has broken down, then there would be too much focus on the heating system and not enough attention paid to improving building fabric.

A comment was made that policy makers need to provide clarity on the plans to reach net-zero, as this is important for social landlords to make effective investment plans.

There was a discussion on the importance of skills, and whether the HBS had sufficient consideration of not only installation skills but also on the selling of low carbon heat products. Because consumers trust the expert advice of their plumbers/heating engineers, it should be ensured that the latter have awareness of and buy-in to the market signals and future strategy. Another important part of this is that having local firms actively installing heat pumps can help consumer uptake as their advice will be trusted. The group were asked to provide any input on this in response to the consultation. 

A broader point was made that the deployment of heat pumps is reliant on viable business models, and that the Scottish Government should be exploring options of how to facilitate these. 

The group highlighted that the National Grid’s report on Future Energy Scenarios, published in 2020, is an important document for consideration alongside the HBS, as it proposes how the energy sector will meet decarbonisation requirements and what the delivery mechanisms will be.

Heat Pump Association – Retrofitting Homes for Net Zero Heating 

The HPA provided a presentation on their report Retrofitting Homes for Net Zero Heating, published in November 2020. The key recommendations from the report were summarised: 

  • mandate a maximum flow temperature of 55oC in Building Regulations to be applied to replacement heating systems from 2026
  • mandate in Building Regulations for Heat Loss Calculations to be carried out for all replacement heating systems from 2026
  • require all heating installers to have a Low Temperature Heating and Hot Water Qualification, or equivalent, as part of accreditation scheme refresher courses

The HPA were asked where they sourced their data from for their future projections. The data is available on the website alongside the report. They also utilised data from the Committee on Climate Change. 

It was noted that the availability of installers is a key barrier to overcome on the deployment pathway. More heat pump installers would increase competition and increase knowledge of heat pumps within customer-facing professionals. 

There was a discussion on the need, or otherwise, for new heat emitters in retrofits in order to enable flow temperatures of 55oC. There was a suggestion that the existing emitters are sufficient in many retrofits. This was linked to the HPA’s recommendation to make heat loss calculations mandatory, as this could highlight that current emitters are often sufficient thus removing a large up-front cost associated with heat pump installations. 

There was a suggestion that it would be valuable to have a national programme of heat loss calculations which can be stored in preparation for building owners to renew their heating. 

A question was raised on why the HPA recommended a 55oC flow temperature without going further and recommending a heat pump be installed. The HPA did this to make the recommendation agreeable across the whole heating industry– there was wide consensus on the 55oC recommendation but a heat pump installation recommendation might have gained less traction.  There was an acknowledgement that the heating industry needed to be ‘brought along’ in the transition. 

The idea of tying any debt from a low carbon heating installation to the property rather than the owner was disputed because this was not successful through the Green Deal. A counter point was made that this model can work if the interest rates are lower– with some views that they were too high on the Green Deal programme.  A group member has provided further information on this finance model for consideration. 

Officials emphasised the difference in ambition of the Scottish Government targets compared to the UKG, and the large scale of the challenge in Scotland. It was suggested that these large targets should be considered in segments, as each segment would require different approaches to achieve deployment. 

Discussion on Heat Pump Deployment Pathway

A point was made that from a supply chain perspective, it is unclear whether there is sufficient demand for heat pumps to encourage investment in supply chains both in terms of time and capital for workforce retraining/diversification. The plumbing industry need to be convinced that there is a demand– they already get plenty of work currently so it would be difficult for them to make any transition away from that. Very clear signals from government would help this. 

It was highlighted that grant funding programmes can be used to create scale and drive deployment. The Warm Front scheme achieved this in the past to stimulate the installation of condensing boilers. Grant schemes such as HEEPS, Area-Based Schemes and Warmer Homes Scotland were cited as important sources of early demand. There is also a need to tackle private homeowners and landlords. Energy Performance Certificates could be key in achieving this, and it should be ensured that their methodology is fit for purpose (i.e. that it encourages the installation of low carbon heating).

Grant programmes can also be very effective in raising consumer awareness of low carbon options. The number of visits to the HPA website increased substantially in the months following the Green Homes Grant introduction. There was also a considerable increase in the number of organisations who became MCS registered to install heat pumps.

The group reflected on the need for grant programmes to drive up the quality of installations. It was suggested that the Green Homes Grant lacks central coordination of quality assurance standards for the installation of heat pumps and other energy efficiency measures. Government should take steps to ensure installers are operating at high standards rather than leaving natural competition in the market to drive quality as there is no guarantee that it will and consumer reassurance is vital. 

There was a discussion on whether manufacturing capacity will limit the deployment of heat pumps over the next five years. The group broadly agreed that there is sufficient capacity internationally, as heat pump and air conditioner manufacturers are very large. However, steps would have to be taken if heat pumps are to be delivered using a Scottish supply chain. There may be an opportunity in converting the large existing gas boiler manufacturing capability in the UK.

 For reasons of economic development, there should be a focus on increasing the Scottish content of components used by heat pump manufacturers. The production of heat exchangers and compressors were suggested as particular areas of interest.

Heat pump manufacturers need confidence in the future of the heat pump market, there have been times in the past where manufacturers have invested and the market has fallen back. An example of where there is uncertainty is the role of hydrogen in future low carbon heating. Clarity on this from government would provide assurance to investors.

It was raised that there needs to be the right solutions in the right places. This can be achieved through targeted zoning to add certainty on the actions to be taken in an area, through programmes like LHEES.

Electricity networks

The group discussed the barriers related to electricity networks and the role of DNOs in heat pump deployment. It was suggested that DNOs are possibly the biggest limiting factor to current heat pump deployment programmes. It was suggested that this is because DNOs are not committing sufficient resource to the evaluation of how installing a heat pump would impact the load on the local grid on a property by property basis. It was commented that the broader constraint in this area comes from Ofgem’s mandate to prevent over-investment so to protect consumers. 

From Warmworks’ experience of running the electrification of heat project, there were challenges associated with the DNO governance of heat pump connection for individual properties. It was emphasised that this programme does not involve clustering of heat pumps (i.e. all installed on the same street) yet a small proportion have nevertheless required energy supply upgrades.  The group highlighted that current DNO connection governance is not fit for volume. 

The point was made that a whole system approach is needed in the planning of large scale heat pump deployment to overcome network barriers. 

It was suggested that there needs to be a link between the abundance of energy from offshore wind in the winter and the use of heat pumps. This could perhaps create opportunities for effective flexible tariffs in Scotland. The Association of Decentralised Energy are undertaking work in this area currently. 


There have been experiences where local authority planning has been a barrier to heat pump developments due to environmental health concerns around noise. This has resulted in having to move heat pumps 5 metres away from the property, to additional cost. In these cases, environmental health officers made decisions based on decibel limits defined in the MCS installation standards and there was some questioning as whether these were appropriate. 

It was also highlighted that there were occasions where full planning applications were required for heat pumps, despite them being covered by Permitted Development Rights. 

It was proposed that if the group does make a recommendation on planning matters, it should try to align with the changes being made under the Heat Networks Bill. This would make the recommendation more effective and make it easier for local authorities to implement any changes in practice. 

A broader point was made that development planning should be more proactive in ensuring new buildings can make the transition to low carbon heating. 

Emerging themes and interim report

The Chair laid out plans for preparing the interim report. It will be drafted by the Chair and Secretariat and circulated for feedback, with a meeting to then be arranged to discuss the draft. 

The Chair suggested the group contact other stakeholders to gain their expertise. It was proposed that the group write to Local Authorities (COSLA), energy network operators and Homes for Scotland; this was agreed.

It was proposed that the group also contact SEPA to get their opinion on whether it would be feasible to encourage low carbon heat deployment via environmental regulations, due to the health risks of air pollution emitted from fossil fuel systems.

Conclusion and closing remarks 

The Chair thanked the group for their time, pointing out that the next meeting will take place on February 18th which will focus on People and Place. The meeting was brought to a close.

Emerging themes 

  • need for a market segmentation approach to delivery over the next five years with targeted interventions to support deployment. The Scottish Government should clearly set out a delivery plan structured along market segments
  • Government and Industry should work together to support consumer awareness and engagement on heat pumps, creating a market “moment” for heat pumps similar to electric vehicles
  • installer skills are important, but the skill requirements goes beyond this to designers and those involved in heating system sales – need to train sales staff, designers and installers to become ‘advocates’ of heat pump systems, using local training centres to support this across Scotland, especially rural areas, and build trust at a local level
  • need to support a clear approach to data collection for targeting heat pump installer activity. This could be supported by a register of consumer interest in heat pumps to advertise market opportunities and communicate these to installers. LHEES could also be central to this
  • the level of the Scottish Government ambition is welcomed, however the ambition alone won’t be enough to convince businesses that this is worthwhile and invest in their workforces
  • the Scottish Government should work with industry to better understand the conditions under which radiator replacement is required to support heat pump deployment, and where it is not. It is vital that over specifying heating systems does not become a barrier to heat pump deployment, and this needs to be supported by appropriate standards for heat loss calculation and industry best practice
  • suggestion that a radiator replacement scheme to support vulnerable customers could help to reduce costs for gas customers, as well as prepare the ground for heat pumps in the future
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