Building a workforce fit for net-zero

The European elections indicate that the fight against Climate Change is very much a primary concern with 77% of potential voters calling it an important criterion when deciding on who to vote for. With 450 MEP candidates committing to the subject across Europe, those refusing to address the issue may just as well step out of the race. Europeans citizens are demanding climate change action and our parliamentarians have a responsibility to get the job done. Reducing our emissions across the economy is critical whether we’re talking about transport, agriculture or heating. The good news, of course is that alongside support from the public and businesses, we have the technological solutions required. We just need our Governments to implement clear policies and regulations so that we can get things done.

With this in mind, it is hardly a surprise that the deployment of low carbon technologies has risen in recent years across Europe. As countries commit to decarbonising their heating systems, technologies such as heat pumps have been strongly established as mass market solution. Yet, as our European neighbours strive forward, we still have no serious plan for decarbonising UK heating systems.

The Committee on Climate Change has said that a new emissions target for the UK should be adopted: net-zero greenhouse gases by 2050. This means that over the course of two heating replacement cycles, we must almost fully decarbonise how we heat our homes. To achieve this, we will need to see the ‘deployment of heat pumps at scale in the 2020s’.

There is no evidence to suggest that the people of Britain are any less in favour of decarbonising our heating systems, yet less than 20,000 heat pumps were sold in the UK in 2017. Of course, we can’t reasonably expect installation rates of heat pumps to soar on their own accord. This simply isn’t feasible given the lack of policy and regulatory drivers combined with the low numbers of qualified heat pump installers today. With this in mind, we support the Committee on Climate Change’s recommendation for a nationwide training programme that will close the skills gap and develop the knowledgeable and expanded installer-base that is able to effectively deploy heat pumps to perform as they should. We need to ensure that the workforce is ready for the low-carbon years ahead.

This is a growing concern for many of us that there are not enough installers familiar with renewable heating, particularly as more and more installers leave the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS). I would welcome your views on what needs to happen to engage installers and increase numbers.

We all have a responsibility to ensure that we are able to adapt to the transition. The Government will play a key role supporting the workforce and ensuring that the policy framework is in place to enable us to get the job done. The longer we await a robust framework and a fully-fledged strategy that will educate installers, the more valuable time we waste. At NIBE Energy Systems, we are committed to training heating engineers and supporting the workforce to upskill. We believe that there is the desire and capacity within the supply chain, however we need policy to provide the certainty for more installers to make that step towards a low carbon future. Find out more about how to become a NIBE VIP installer.


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