The Government’s drive to get Britons to install heat pumps in their home was today branded ‘shameful’ and an ’embarrassment’ after missing its installations target.
Fewer than 10,000 pumps have been installed in England and Wales during the first year of a programme giving households a £5,000 voucher to help cover the cost.
This is despite an official target of 30,000 annual installations – while the scheme has also given out just £60million worth of vouchers from its £150million budget.
Air source heat pumps cost between £7,000 and £14,000 to purchase and install, while a ground source pump is between £15,000 and £35,000 – before any voucher, although Octopus Energy and British Gas are working on cheaper alternatives.
Critics say the pumps, which are typically placed outside at the back or side of a house, perform poorly in cold weather, especially if a home is inadequately insulated or the radiators are not big enough to give off sufficient heat.
Mike Foster, chief executive of the Energy and Utilities Alliance trade body for boiler manufacturers, said: ‘It takes a certain type of genius to fail to give away £150million of taxpayers’ money and this wretched scheme looks like it has done just that. When will the Government actually listen to the people, the majority of whom simply cannot afford a heat pump, subsidised or not?
‘The scheme is simply a taxpayer handout to those who don’t need it. It does little for carbon saving compared to investment on insulation. It does not help people keep bills low. It takes from the poor to give to the wealthy and it is an embarrassment of a policy.’
He added that more taxpayer-subsidised heat pumps have likely been fitted in Cornish holiday homes than the whole of Birmingham, which is ‘shameful’.
Mr Foster said: ‘People are still hurting with high energy bills, insulating the homes of those most in need should be the priority, not giving hard-earned taxpayers’ cash to those who were going to buy a heat pump anyway. It’s utterly wasteful.
‘There was a time when a Conservative Government took pride in being fiscally prudent with taxpayers’ money. Now they just ladle out the cash on a green spending spree. What makes this profligacy even worse is that insulation measures could save more carbon, keep bills down and provide a sound economic investment for the Treasury.’
The Boiler Upgrade Scheme provides Government grants as an incentive to replace fossil fuel-burning gas boilers with air or ground source heat pumps.
The scheme was launched in May last year but has been branded a ‘taxpayer handout to those who don’t need it’.
Craig Mackinlay, chairman of the Net Zero Scrutiny Group of backbench Conservative MPs, told the Daily Telegraph: ‘Even when the very wealthiest are being bribed by the Government to buy heat pumps, they are refusing to do so.
‘A sensible approach to net zero involves allowing competition to provide green products that people actually want to buy because they work, rather than forcing upon them poor products that don’t.’
It follow warnings from both the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) and a House of Lords committee warned that the 2028 goal appears to be unachievable.
The NIC, which advises the Government, last month warned that ministers had made ‘negligible advances’ in installing low-carbon heating systems.
But the Department of Energy Security and Net Zero has defended the scheme, saying that heat pumps are a ‘proven, scalable option for decarbonising heat’.
And Rebecca Dibb-Simkin from Octopus Energy, which manufactures and installs heat pumps, insisted that demand had risen ‘tenfold’ since the end of last year.
She told the Telegraph that uptake of schemes such as this ‘often starts slow and picks up over time as teething issues get fixed’.
Ms Dibb-Simkin also said energy performance certificate (EPC) requirements and planning rules have created a bottleneck for heat pumps, but this is ‘changing rapidly’.
The Government also has a target for smart meters to be rolled out to every home by 2025, although this is also under threat with just 50 per cent expected to be installed by the end of this year.
Gas boilers will be banned in new builds from 2025 – and the Government intends to ban the installation of new ones completely from 2035.
A spokesman for the Department of Energy Security and Net Zero said: ‘We are determined to upgrade heating systems across the UK, expecting uptake to rise and fully confident our target of 600,000 heat pumps installations by 2028 will be met.
‘Heat pumps are a proven, scalable option for decarbonising heat. The action we’re taking to power up Britain, increasing our energy security and independence, will reduce the cost of heat pumps, making them a more attractive option.
‘Our Boiler Upgrade Scheme will continue to provide grants of up to £6,000 towards the upfront cost of installing a heat pump, and will be extended with new, additional funding in each year until 2028.’