Union and Industry bosses call for heat pump skills revolution

In a new report published today (28th June), a coalition of unions, heating engineers, manufacturers and energy companies have called for a heat pump skills revolution. 

The report highlights the need for five times as many heat pump businesses in the next 4 years to get on track to net-zero. The industry is also pressing for the recruitment of far more women heat pump engineers. The report calls on the Government and industry to develop high standards for installation, skills, and working conditions, and to provide more support for UK heat pump manufacturing.

There are only 1,294 businesses installing heat pumps in the UK and standards body MCS estimate that this will need to rapidly increase to at least 7,000 if the Government is to have any chance of reaching its target of installing 600,000 heat pumps a year by 2028. At the moment, the industry only has a capacity to install a maximum of 90,000 heat pumps a year. 

The coalition, which includes the TUC, Electrify Heat, Eon, Energy Savings Trust and the Heat Pump Association, are also calling for a just transition for energy workers, with workers in adjacent sectors  supported to broaden their skill sets to install and maintain heat pumps. 

The transition to net-zero can offer good jobs in heat pump manufacturing and installation but only if the quality of installations is assured by common standards, including on skills, safety and pay.

Michael Lewis, Chief Executive E.ON UK, said:

“Decisive action over the next decade is absolutely critical if the UK is going to meet its Net Zero by 2050 target. Front and centre of that is our challenge to decarbonise the way we heat 29 million homes across the country. We’re already supporting our customers in their journeys and developing the skills to install thousands of heat pumps nationwide but it’s crucial that the heat pump revolution across the country accelerates now.”

“That revolution is only possible if we create good quality jobs and develop a skills supply chain that is capable of delivering at scale and at pace. There are huge challenges here but also huge opportunities. Industry, government and unions can work together to create a highly skilled, more inclusive workforce that will modernise Britain’s heating infrastructure and make a significant contribution to achieving our Net Zero target.”

Paul Nowak, Deputy General Secretary at the Trades Union Congress, said:

“Heat pumps have an important role to play in providing homes across the UK with affordable, clean heat. And the growth of this industry can provide high quality work across the UK. But with the UK’s fragmented construction sector, we’re in danger of a race to the bottom on pay, safety, and the quality of installations. It’s a choice though – if the government backs industry-wide standards, set down in agreements with unions and employers, we can get the best out of this new industry for workers and households. That must include a fair pay agreement across the industry, and minimum standards for the quality of installation too.”

Juliet Phillips, Campaign Lead at the Electrify Heat coalition which helped author the report, said:

“The shift towards net zero could be a once-in-lifetime chance to rethink how a green economy can support high-quality jobs. We can use the heat pump revolution to unlock opportunities for a fairer, more inclusive workforce and employment patterns. This translates into a better experience for workers, households and the wider economy.”

Electrify Heat member supporting quotes:

David Cowdrey, Director of External Affairs at MCS Charitable Foundation and convenor of the Green Jobs Action Group, said:

“Put simply, we have to get off gas. As this report sets out in some detail, this represents a significant opportunity for Government and industry to work together to create upwards of 50,000 new, highly skilled, high quality jobs in clean heat by 2050. And it is no longer just about creating good jobs in clean heat – it is now an imperative to help soften the blow of ever rising energy prices, as well as providing a significant contribution towards reaching our Net Zero target.”

Laura Bishop, Chair of the Ground Source Heat Pump Association, said:

“The GSHPA warmly welcomes this timely and important report by Electrify Heat and the TUC. High quality and accessible training and retraining, good apprenticeships, and high regulatory standards are all vital in ensuring a just and fair transition for those currently working in the fossil fuel heating sector. It’s also vital that Government provides the necessary and consistent financial support and regulatory framework to drive uptake of low carbon heat and to ensure year-on-year significant jobs growth in the heat pump sector.”

Faisal Hussain, Chief Executive, HIES Consumer Code, said:

“Increasing confidence in the heat pump market requires a coordinated approach from everyone involved in the sector, including government. Having a stable market provides new entrants with confidence that they can build a career or business in the sector.”

Stew Horne, Head of Policy at the Energy Saving Trust, said:

“Energy Saving Trust welcomes the report highlighting the importance of high-quality jobs and skills development to maximise the success of the heat pump sector. We need a skilled, diverse and engaged workforce to enable the growth of the low carbon heating sector that benefits both households and workers in the transition to net zero. The recommendations outlined here provide a clear pathway to increase confidence and support the scaling up that will be vital as we move to low carbon heating.”

For more information please contact:

Juliet Phillips, Electrify Heat coalition
Tel: 07548097061
Email: juliet.phillips@e3g.org

Mika Minio-Paluello or Anna Markova at TUC
Tel: 07717 531168
Email: AMarkovaMMinio@tuc.org.uk