How to scale a highly skilled heat pump industry
The UK’s low carbon heating industry will have to grow its capacity rapidly in the coming years. Over the next three decades, around 25 million fossil fuel boilers will need to be swapped out for less polluting heating systems. The UK government has set out a target to increase annual installation numbers from around 30,000 before 2020 to 600,000 by 2028. For this to happen, the UK needs to drastically increase the number of skilled heat pump engineers and improve productivity, so that the sector can install more heat pumps.
This paper explores the current state of the heat pump market from a skills, training and productivity perspective and suggests ways of increasing the supply chain’s capacity to install heat pumps.
The UK government’s main focus so far has been on increasing consumer demand for heat pumps, which is undoubtedly crucial. However, growing the supply of highly skilled engineers and having productive companies to employ them may be even more important and challenging than increasing demand.
We estimate that there are currently only 3,000 trained heat pump engineers in the UK, but at least 27,000 will be needed in the next six years, requiring increases of 4,000-6,000 per year. This means training more new engineers every year than are currently in the whole industry.
Moreover, increasing productivity in the industry, which has remained stagnant for the past few decades, is also critical as this will translate to higher wages for engineers and reduced costs for consumers.