A new report has revealed that France is cutting carbon from heating buildings 10 times faster than the UK by deploying more than 10 times the number of heat pumps.
Last year, France sold 621,000 heat pumps, saving 15.6Mt of CO2 emissions, while the UK sold just 55,000 heat pumps, saving 1.5Mt of CO2 emissions, and had the lowest installation rate of 21 European countries.
The UK government has set a target of installing 600,000 heat pumps a year by 2028, meaning they must achieve a tenfold increase in deployment within five years to catch up with where France is at right now.
The report by MCS Charitable Foundation assesses why the UK is lagging behind targets and sets out lessons the government must learn from France if it is to meet climate change goals.
It highlights how the French government seized opportunities when there was disruption in global energy markets to refocus attention away from gas and oil onto electrifying heat. In addition, France has had energy efficiency standards for new build homes for more than a decade. They have accelerated heat pump deployment and energy efficiency has been a political priority across different political parties. In 2019, Emmanuel Macron’s government introduced financial incentives that saw a near doubling of air-to-water heat pump installations within a year, building on previous incentive schemes. As a result of sustained support for heat pumps, France had more than 30,000 full time jobs in the heat pump industry in 2019, increased from 100,000 sales in 2010 to over 600,000 sales by 2022.
By contrast, in the UK in 2019, after years of stop-start policies and inadequate funding, delays in regulations for new homes and insufficient consumer information, there were only 2,000 jobs supported by the heat pump industry and only a 10th of the number of heat pump installations seen in France.
The UK is now beginning to scale up heat pump deployment, seeing a 40% increase in the heat pump market in 2022 since the energy crisis began. But rather than a gradual rise in heat pump numbers, as France has achieved over 15 years, the UK government must now initiate an exponential increase in the heat pump market.
The rate of growth the UK must achieve would be unprecedented, but could deliver as many as 50,000 new jobs as well as cutting energy bills and carbon, MCS Charitable Foundation argues.
The charity is calling for the government to immediately commit to making heat pumps mandatory for all new homes, scaling up and extending grants for homeowners to install heat pumps and introducing new loan schemes, and a massive consumer awareness campaign to help people access funding.