• Scheme reduced carbon emissions by equivalent of over 55,000 people flying from London to New York
  • Cornwall and South Cambridgeshire home to highest number of applications under scheme

In its first full year, the Government’s Boiler Upgrade Scheme has cut over 17,000 tonnes of carbon emissions by funding green ways for people to heat their homes, new research published by the innovation charity Nesta finds.

The Boiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS), launched in April 2022, provides grants for people in England and Wales to help with the cost of replacing fossil fuel home heating systems like gas boilers. The scheme is designed to help consumers consider alternatives powered by renewable energy like heat pumps and biomass boilers. An installer online portal for the scheme launched at the end of November 2022 and in the Spring Budget, the scheme was extended to 2028.

New data published today by the UK Government covers a full year of the scheme. Analysis of the data by Nesta finds that by funding the low carbon replacement heating systems, the BUS has prevented the release of over 17,000 tonnes of carbon emissions. This is equivalent to the emissions from over 55,000 people flying from London to New York in a year.

Nesta’s analysis shows that demand for heating systems paid for through the BUS is highest in rural areas, with two of the top three constituencies for applications in Cornwall, and South Cambridgeshire the second-highest.

Parliamentary constituencies where Boiler Upgrade Scheme is highest

Nesta’s analysis of BUS data by constituency reveals that the majority of vouchers redeemed have been in areas where the average wage is around or just below the national average.

The Boiler Upgrade Scheme is implemented via a voucher scheme, with an MCS registered installer applying for a voucher on a household’s behalf and claiming the voucher rebate at the end of the works. Voucher applications must be processed before a voucher is issued. Following this, a redemption application needs to be processed before a redemption payment to the installer is made.

While 53% of the maximum number of vouchers available had been applied for by the end of March 2023, there had been some delays turning some of the vouchers into payments. Nesta’s analysis finds by the end of March around three in five applications received have translated to redemptions paid.

Andrew Sissons, deputy director of sustainable future at Nesta, said: “Heat pumps are among the most important tools we have to tackle climate change. The boilers most of us have in our homes are one of the biggest sources of carbon emissions, and replacing them with cleaner, greener alternatives like heat pumps is an essential part of reaching net zero.

“While the first year of the Boiler Upgrade Scheme has not been smooth sailing, it has already demonstrated that heat pumps can significantly reduce our carbon footprints at home. Despite initial delays in the online application portal and processing payments, thousands of people across England and Wales have taken up the offer to help fund renewable heating systems in the scheme’s first year. This has reduced carbon emissions by the equivalent of over 55,000 transatlantic flights, with the promise of greater savings in the scheme’s second year.

“However, the UK is lagging behind Europe and the USA for heat pump installations, so it is past time for us to start installing them here at pace. Alongside the Boiler Upgrade Scheme, there are things the Government needs to do - from making electricity cheaper to supporting heating engineers to retrain - to help heat pumps take off.

“It is very promising to see more rural areas, such as Cornwall and Devon, leading the way on installing heat pumps under the scheme. Meeting demand for heat pump installers could be an important source of attractive green jobs in rural communities in England and Wales.”

Notes to editors

  1. The median hourly wage for England is £16.42 and for Wales it is £15.33.
  2. Nesta previously published an analysis of the Boiler Upgrade Scheme in November 2022.
  3. For more information on the analysis or to speak to one of the experts involved, please contact Kieran Lowe, Media Manager, on 020 7438 2576 or [email protected]. Spokespeople are available for broadcast interviews.

About Nesta

We are Nesta, the UK's innovation agency for social good. We design, test and scale solutions to society's biggest problems. Our three missions are to give every child a fair start, help people live healthy lives, and create a sustainable future where the economy works for both people and the planet.

For over 20 years, we have worked to support, encourage and inspire innovation. We work in three roles: as an innovation partner working with frontline organisations to design and test new solutions, as a venture builder supporting new and early stage businesses, and as a system shaper creating the conditions for innovation.

Harnessing the rigour of science and the creativity of design, we work relentlessly to change millions of lives for the better. Find out more at nesta.org.uk

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