Not under the BUS: Industry hits back over claims the heat pump scheme is tanking

The Boiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS) is the government’s flagship scheme to ensure clean heat is affordable for households across the UK. As we approach the end of the scheme’s first year, some critics are quick to try to throw the scheme under the bus.

The Boiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS) is the government’s flagship scheme to ensure clean heat is affordable for households across the UK. As we approach the end of the scheme’s first year, some critics are quick to try to throw the scheme under the bus.

The BUS, which opened to applications in May 2022, offers subsidies of between £5,000 and £6,000 for the installation of a heat pump. Heat pumps, which are three times as efficient as gas boilers, are at the centre of the government’s plan to decarbonise home heating. They can cut a household’s average carbon emissions by over 70%, compared to heating with a gas boiler.

The scheme has come under recent attack for low uptake, with 9,981 vouchers redeemed, 33% of the maximum number of vouchers available, in the first year. However, voucher applications received (but not yet redeemed) total 15,768, which is 53% of the maximum number of vouchers available in year one. The scheme has shown consumer appetite for heat pumps.

It hasn’t been the smoothest 12 months. While the BUS was technically live from the end of May 2022, OFGEM support platforms were delayed, including the online application portal which didn’t launch until late November. A House of Lords inquiry into the scheme found that initial advertising of the scheme had been poor, and BUS marketing and active promotion didn’t begin until February 2023. This rocky 12-month period also coincided with historically high electricity prices, a cost of living squeeze for households across the UK, three prime ministers with conflicting energy policy, and a media backdrop of widespread misinformation about heat pumps.

However, despite this rocky start, there are a list of reasons to be optimistic about the UK’s shift towards clean heat.

  • 2022 was the best year for heat pump installation under the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS), and 2023 is set to be even better.
  • Octopus Energy has a waiting list of 50,000 consumers interested in installing a heat pump.
  • British Gas now offers a starting heat pump installation cost of just £2,999.
  • Redrow, one of the UK’s largest housebuilders, has announced that all of their upcoming developments will be heated using air source heat pumps as standard.
  • In Europe, heat pump sales increased by 38% in 2022 (doubling since 2019) with sales nationally in Poland, Czechia and Belgium all doubling.

The government has also announced various measures to boost heat pump uptake, including a competition to incentivise heat pump manufacturing in the UK, a Heat Training Grant to support trainees in England taking short training courses, and the Heat Pump Ready Programme to support the development and demonstration of heat pump technologies and tools. The government has also said that they will roll out an enhanced marketing campaign to increase consumer awareness and take-up of the subsidy scheme.

While the launch was not smooth and the scheme could be improved, the BUS has the potential to be a crucial pillar in the government’s approach for making sure the transition to clean, efficient heat is available to all. Now is the time to double-down on this smart, efficient technology. While some nay-sayers may wish failure upon the scheme, the trajectory is onwards and upwards for heat pumps in the UK.


“We have had false starts for the UK’s clean heating revolution, but the Boiler Upgrade Scheme’s relative success despite significant challenges shows it is now well underway. The growing FUD around heat pumps is a sign that they are going mainstream. Good Energy started installing heat pumps earlier this year — our customers know they’re the future and judging by the recent announcements it seems the government know that too. All the criticism shows is that the BUS has exited the station and the naysayers’ vested interests are getting left behind.”

Nigel Pocklington, CEO, Good Energy

“The Boiler Upgrade Scheme has the potential to ignite a revolutionary clean heat industry in the UK, creating thousands of jobs, reducing air pollution, improving energy security, and keeping our net zero ambitions alive. While it is essential to scrutinise all public funding we must do so dispassionately and without bias – considering the adverse environment the scheme has had to traverse in its first year, I would argue that it has done phenomenally well. We must also be patient as civil servants respond to calls to amend the scheme; the House of Lords enquiry called for more marketing for the schemes, and the government responded by doing just that.”

Leo Vincent, Policy Advisor at E3G

“As the UK’s leading manufacturer of ground source heat pumps, we are well aware of the weaknesses of the BUS. Reform is undoubtedly required, not least in differentiating between technologies, but the scheme can deliver, particularly once other supportive policies come into effect. “Critics should recognise the scale of the challenge before us, and that building a buoyant market and economies of scale takes time. Similar comments were made about offshore wind a decade ago, and it is now capable of generating electricity well below the cost of traditional technologies. “Heat pumps are by far the most energy efficient technology available to us, taking them out of the mix would mean opting for far more energy-intensive options, or resigning ourselves into a fossil fuel future. Neither of which are remotely credible options.”

Kensa Group’s CEO, Matthew Trewhella, commenting on the challenges facing the BUS in its first year