Ministers looking at quadrupling funding for existing Clean Heats Grants scheme and extending it by a year
Homeowners could be given grants of at least £7,000 to replace their gas boilers with heat pumps under plans being considered by Boris Johnson.
The government is said to be looking at hugely expanding an existing scheme called Clean Heat Grants to boost take-up of low carbon alternatives to traditional heating systems.
The £100m scheme, which is due to be launched in April, is currently scheduled to run for two years and offer grants of up to £4,000.
But The Times said it had been told that Johnson wants to quadruple the scheme’s funding to £400m, extend its duration to three years and increase its starting grant to £7,000.
The government is also said to be preparing a major advertising campaign for the new scheme to encourage people to replace their gas boilers, with Johnson targeting an autumn announcement during the run up to the COP26 climate change conference in November.
The plans could help incentivise the installation of nearly 60,000 heat pumps over three years. The government has said it wants at least 600,000 installed each year by 2028.
But ministers have admitted they face a challenge in persuading homeowners to install the systems, which are currently much more expensive than gas boilers and can be costlier to run.
While gas boilers cost around £1,000, air source heat pumps are priced between £7,000 and £14,000 with ground source heat pumps costing from £15,000 to £35,000.
Laura Bishop, director of renewable energy engineering consultancy Infinitas Design and chair of the Ground Source Heat Pump Association, said she welcomed the news that the government was looking at increasing its support for heat pumps.
She said: “We are well aware that the current cost of installing a ground source heat pump far exceeds that of a gas boiler so an increase on the grant from £4,000 to £7,000 will certainly be an encouragement to householders wishing to decarbonise their heating systems”.
She added that the move would be a “reflection that the government understands the need to drive down costs through increased heat pump uptake.”
Bishop has previously said that “hard decisions” would have to be made if the government wants to decarbonise to reach net zero emissions by 2050.
Costs of heat pump installation have been driven up further by the limited number of trained installers, with a report by EY warning there are just 1,200 compared with almost 10,000 that would need to qualify within the next four years to meet current targets.
Last week, the Heat Pump Association launched a three-day training course providing a recognised qualification for plumbing and heating engineers to install heat pumps.