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  • Hanaa Siddiqi

UK Exports at Risk: A £65m Annual Decline Looms as Heat Pump Implementation Lags, Warns New Study

Fading Flames: The UK's £65m Boiler Exports Under Threat as Global Shift to Green Heating Grows – An ECIU Analysis Breakdown

Three-quarters of central heating boiler exports might soon be extinguished. Countries receiving these fossil fuel units plan to phase them out before 2030. New ECIU analysis shines a harsh light on the potentially grim future.

In an alarming revelation that could burn a £65 million hole in the UK's annual gas boiler exports by 2030, the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) warns of a dire need to expedite the transition to green heating options like heat pumps.

According to United Nations trade data, 2022 saw a whopping £85 million worth of gas boilers and related parts exported from the UK. What's troubling is that a staggering £65 million, or over three-quarters of those exports, were dispatched to nations harbouring a timeline to cease the sale of new gas boilers within the next seven years.

Take Ireland, for instance - the UK's most significant recipient of boilers and parts. They've penned 2025 as the year when shattered units must be swapped for cleaner solutions like electric heat pumps.

Germany and the Netherlands are no different – they parted with £4m and £1.3m for UK central heating products in 2022, targeting 2025 and 2026 as their respective fossil fuel boiler phase-out dates. The Netherlands, however, still has a soft corner for hybrid gas systems.

The report casts a long shadow over the prospects of UK gas boiler manufacturers. With heat pumps gaining traction, traditional markets may rapidly contract.

2019 to 2022: The period within which exports halved amidst skyrocketing European demand for heat pumps, fueled by soaring gas prices and ambitious policies. Consider this: approximately three million heat pumps were grabbed off the shelves across Europe in 2022 alone, marking a 40% surge and a running total exceeding 20 million.

Meanwhile, the UK sluggishly plods along with a 600,000-per-year heat pump installation target by 2028, languishing behind its European neighbours. The Climate Change Committee's cautionary tone suggests that additional interventions may be needed to meet this aspiration.

The UK government's commitment is to phase out gas boilers in new homes by 2025. Yet, uncertainty hangs in the air regarding new homes' connection to the gas grid and whether an expected ban on new fossil fuel boilers for off-gas grid homes will kick in from 2026.

2035 remains the goal for the total phase-out of new gas boilers in the UK. On the brighter side, clean heat market mechanisms and grants are being concocted to spur the uptake of heat pumps starting in 2024. But the chorus of criticism grows as sceptics demand more decisive action.

Jess Ralston, an energy analyst at the ECIU, draws a gloomy picture: "Unless we minimize our gas reliance through insulation and heat pumps, we'll be importing more from abroad. The global switch to clean heat is progressing fast, but we're not learning our lesson."

She adds that the UK's existing boiler manufacturers must see the signs. "With clear government signals, we can lead the world in heat pumps before we lose our place."

In a related and positive twist, Rendesco, a clean heating company, unveiled a staggering £150m plan to develop ground source heat pump installations for new-build homes across the UK. It's touted as the most significant private sector investment in the country's burgeoning clean heating industry.

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