This report draws attention to the home heat workforce - the plumbers, heating and gas engineers, and installers - who will be playing an essential in delivering the UK's net zero targets. It provides much-needed insight into the challenges and barriers facing the industry, and highlights the need for policymakers to step in and address them.
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.
In this report, we recommend policymakers should act without delay to address these barriers or put delivering net zero at risk and consider the following:
- Launch an engaging and attractive Climate Heroes recruitment campaign for new heat pump installers using lessons from other sectors.
- Launch a clear national information campaign on the phasing out fossil fuel heating for installers and consumers.
- Give installers confidence to retrain for heat pump installation by stimulating consumer demand through a boosted Boiler Upgrade Scheme, including a committed ringfenced pot for lower-income homeowners.
- Consider providing vocational tax relief for the loss of earnings of sole trader and self-employed SME installers when training for new green skills.
- Set out clear training standards and an accreditation badge for all heat pump training providers and installers.