Demand for renewable energy technologies reached its highest-ever level in 2023. Notably, there was an almost 20% surge in certified heat pump installations compared to the previous year.
The microgeneration certification body (MCS) confirmed that it had accredited more than 220,000 heat pump and solar panel installations last year which surpassed a previous record set more than a decade ago according to year-end figures.
High energy costs helped drive the record demand for domestic renewable technologies as the UK struggled to come to grips with the cost-of-living crisis.
Most of the installations were solar panels with nearly 190,000 households and businesses choosing to install them. This is the highest number since the cuts to the Feed-in Tariff (FiT) subsidy in 2011. Solar installations last year still fell short of the record 203,000 in 2011 when people rushed to take advantage of the amount they received from the feed-in-tariff support scheme before it was cut.
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Chris Hewett, Chief Executive of the trade association Solar Energy UK, said:
“The solar industry is on a roll, particularly as we start to conclude work on the government-industry solar taskforce, whose roadmap for delivering 70GW of capacity is due to be published in a couple of months. It is also very gratifying to see such growth in the deployment of heat pumps and battery energy storage systems, which partner so well with rooftop solar energy systems by maximising the savings and decarbonisation that they offer.”
Solar PV installations have continued to grow since the FiT was closed to new applicants in 2019 which shows that the technology is still saving consumers money on their energy bills, providing them with carbon savings and energy independence despite the lack of subsidy.
Chris Hewett went on to speak about the continued growth of domestic solar.
“It’s no wonder that people are queuing up to go solar. Installing a solar energy system is one of the best investments available to homeowners and businesses alike. Electricity bills remain stubbornly high, and all expectations are that they will remain so for the foreseeable future. In contrast, solar provides cheap, decarbonised power and normally pays for itself in a few years.”
Battery storage has become the third most popular technology type to be installed amongst the MCS-certified contractor base as homeowners look at ways to better use their homegrown energy. There were just 50 contractors certified to install the technology at the end of 2022 compared to over 850 now. Installations have seen a similar growth with 4,400 of the 4,700 certified batteries being installed in 2023, and almost 800 of those in November 2023 alone.
According to figures put together from the MCS database of certified renewable energy installations, it was the heat pump industry that saw the biggest breakthrough with a 19% increase for all heat pump types compared to 2022, which was itself a record year. Last year, the number of heat pumps installed across the UK rose to a record high of almost 40,000, with a 25% increase in MCS-certified air-source heat pump installations. The total number of certified heat pumps installed across the UK has now exceeded 200,000.
The industry’s accreditation body, the MCS has credited the jump in the number of heat pump installations to the government grant for low-carbon heating systems which was increased from £5,000 to £7,500 in October last year. The non-profit reported that applications to the Boiler Upgrade Scheme increased by 50% after the introduction of the more generous grants last year.
However, the MCS foundation which manages the body’s standards scheme said that the UK was still not doing enough to reduce its heavy reliance on gas which is considered a vital step if the UK is to meet its legally binding climate targets.
The MCS organisation warned that despite this year’s upward trend, the installation of heat pumps would have to increase more than tenfold within the next four years to meet the government target of 600,000 a year by 2028.
David Cowdrey, Director of External Affairs at the MCS Foundation, said:
“It is very encouraging to see the growth in all renewable energy and particularly heat pumps. More households than ever are opting for these carbon-free and highly efficient heating systems that have zero emissions at the point of use. But while we can expect a continued upward trend in heat pump installations, thanks to the introduction of higher grants, we will still need additional policies to achieve the exponential growth that is required now. Such policies should include reducing electricity costs to encourage heat pump uptake while tackling fuel poverty.”
He called on the government to move social and environmental tariffs from energy bills into general taxation to reduce electricity costs and make running heat pumps substantially cheaper than a gas boiler.
The growth in heat pump installations is expected to continue with the government currently consulting on plans to require all new homes to have a heat pump or be connected to a low-carbon heat network from next year. These plans should result in a significant increase in demand for heat pumps and low-carbon heat networks.
New rules are also being introduced this year that will require heat pump manufacturers to sell a proportionate amount of heat pumps relative to their boiler sales, under the Clean Heat Market Mechanism.
Charlotte Lee, chief executive of the Heat Pump Association said the increase in heat pump installations confirmed consumer demand for the technology was growing fast.
"With the advent of the Clean Heat Market Mechanism and the Future Homes Standard, we expect this number to continue to rise in 2024 and beyond and the supply chain is gearing up to deliver. With consumer demand for heat pumps rising, we encourage all heating engineers to look ahead and invest in heat pump installation training to support the anticipated deployment and to future-proof their business."
Thomas Nowak, secretary general of the European Heat Pump Association said that he thought the increase in UK heat pump installations should inspire EU member states to deliver more supportive policies for clean heat technologies.
"The strong showing from the UK is testament to the importance of stable, supportive policies to ensure heat pump manufacturers, investors, and consumers have confidence in the sector. The EU and its member governments must follow suit to put heat pump sales back on track. More generally, ensuring the electricity price is no more than double the price of gas is critical to making heat pumps the most wallet-friendly as well as the most sustainable option Europe-wide.”
Ian Rippin, CEO of MCS was pleased to be able to report on another record-breaking year for small-scale renewables which shows the sector’s sustained upward growth. He said that the future of small-scale renewable installations is becoming increasingly important and that MCS would continue to play a crucial role in the decarbonisation of UK homes.
“The growth we’ve seen in domestic renewable electricity systems over the past year may also give some insight into the growing consumer reliance on home-grown energy in the UK during the cost-of-living and energy crises. As electricity prices skyrocket, more people are turning to renewable solutions to generate their own power at home, secure energy independence, decrease their electricity bills, and reduce their carbon footprint.”
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