Media Release

Call up plumbers as “Climate Heroes” to get Britain off imported gas

Ministers should launch a national campaign to recruit an army of plumbers and heat installers as “Climate Heroes” cutting Britain’s dependence on imported gas, a think-tank says today.

The Social Market Foundation said that Britain needs to recruit and train many more plumbers to install heat pumps to replace millions of gas boilers if the target of a Net Zero economy by 2050 is to be met.

Cutting the use of fossil fuel heating will reduce Britain’s dependence on imported gas, making the country less vulnerable to disruption on international markets that is driving up energy bills, the SMF said.

But the current generation of plumbers lacks incentives to getting training for heat pumps, and not enough new recruits are being drawn into heat installation work, the SMF said in a report based on extensive interviews with workers and leaders in the heat industry.

A national charm offensive that encourages more people to train for heat installation by showing the national importance of the work, the SMF said.   Much more needs to be done to show plumbers the financial and environmental advantages of training for heat pumps.

The SMF report will be published this week in partnership with a cross-party group of MPs.

The heating of buildings, including homes, accounts for 14% of carbon emissions. Reducing this to meet the UK’s net zero goals rests in large part on plumbers to replace millions of fossil-fuel heating systems with new ones, such as heat pumps.

Policymakers need to also address the barriers to re-training, such as high costs to re-training, inconsistent training standards, and lack of robust plan for the industry.  If these barriers are not addressed, the Government will struggle to meet its target of installing 600,000 heat pumps a year by 2028, the SMF said.

The SMF found concern in the sector that not enough young recruits are being drawn into an industry that will need a large expansion to meet the challenge of installing millions of  heat pumps.

To make the job more attractive, plumbers should be celebrated as  key workers leading the green revolution in home heating, the SMF said.

The Government should launch a Climate Heroes campaign aimed at recognizing the importance of the home heat workforce for recruiting more into this vital sector, the SMF recommends.

Other key recommendations to policymakers include:

  • Stimulate consumer demand by boosting the Boiler Upgrade Scheme
  • Launching a clear national information campaign on the phasing out of fossil fuel heating for installers and consumers alike
  • Consider providing tax relief for sole trader and self-employed installers when they’re re-training
  • Set out clear training standards and certification for all heat pump installers

The report is being launched before a virtual panel event hosted by SMF, in association with the APPG on Intelligent Energy and Parliamentary Renewable and Sustainable Energy Group (PRASEG). The panel event will feature Peter Aldous MP, Lord Oates, and SMF Senior Researcher Amy Norman. It will be chaired by SMF Director, James Kirkup.

Amy Norman, Senior Researcher, said:

“Energy bills are rising because we’re too reliant on imported gas bought on international markets where prices are soaring. Taking the gas out of home heating will help to reduce that demand and protect households from this volatility, so the plumbers and installers involved will be doing great service to the country.

Plumbers and heat installers are going to be absolutely vital to the huge national effort to get the carbon out of our home heating.  But right now, they don’t have the clarity or incentives they need to get training in fitting heat pumps. 

We need a dramatic call from Government to call up a generation of climate heroes who will take the carbon out of our homes.

The message is clear: your country needs you to get trained to fit the heat pumps that will help make Britain’s homes cleaner, greener and less dependent on expensive imported gas.

To seize the opportunity of a Net Zero economy, we’re going to need a lot more plumbers and heat installers, but there is concern in the sector that not enough young people want to get into the trade.  Ministers should use the Government’s messaging power to celebrate plumbers and heat installers as Climate Heroes playing a vital role in delivering a greener future.”

Peter Aldous MP, said:

“Decarbonising British homes will play a vital role in delivering Net Zero, and as this report shows much will depend on the skills and effort of plumbers and heat installers.

Making sure we have more workers with the skills needed to give Britain greener homes and cut our use of expensive gas must be a national priority. Those workers should be celebrated for the role they will play in the Net Zero economy. 

The report demonstrates to people across the political spectrum that with the right policies and priorities, Net Zero will deliver a better economy, rich in opportunities for skilled and rewarding work.”





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