Installing for Time: Transitioning the UK’s home heat workforce on the road to net zero

Decarbonising home heat is critical to meeting the UK’s net zero goals by 2050. It will require physical modifications to millions of homes, including the installation of heat pumps as a lower-carbon alternative to gas-burning boilers. This means that plumbers, heating and gas engineers, and installers have a central role to play in mitigating the challenges and seizing the opportunities of transitioning to a cleaner, greener Britain.

For the installers themselves, fitting a heat pump requires a significantly different set of techniques to fitting and maintaining a gas boiler. And so, meeting the Government’s ambitious net zero targets will rely heavily on recruiting and training a new workforce of Climate Hero installers. Much of this will require a skills transformation amongst existing home heat workers, many of whom are self-employed or sole-traders and therefore face, amongst other barriers, significant opportunity costs from time spent on retraining. SMF analysis has previously pointed out that the Government’s Heat and Buildings Strategy (HBS) largely overlooks this vital element of decarbonising home heat.

What do we know about the existing home heat workforce, and how aware of and prepared are they for the transition to net zero? What barriers (both attitudinal and structural) to retraining do home heat installers face? What can policymakers do to address these barriers and ensure that the workforce will be equipped with the skills to decarbonise home heat in time for 2050?

The Social Market Foundation, in association with the APPG on Intelligent Energy and the Parliamentary Renewable and Sustainable Energy Group, hosted a virtual event to answer these questions.

Following a presentation of new evidence from the SMF’s research paper, we heard from a leading panel of experts on the importance of the skills transition for decarbonising home heat and how the current skills gap can be addressed.



 Peter Aldous MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Intelligent Energy



Lord Oates, Vice Chair of the Parliamentary Renewable & Sustainable Energy Group



Amy Norman, SMF senior researcher and author of upcoming SMF report Installing for Time



 James Kirkup, SMF Director (Chair)


Installing for Time, the SMF’s new report examining the latest evidence on the attitudes of home heat installers towards decarbonisation and heat pumps, is sponsored by the European Climate Foundation and can be found here.

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