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‘Net zero progress does not match ambition’

A report published by the Committee of Public Accounts just before the government went into election ‘purdah’ highlighted its concerns that the progress made so far decarbonising home heating does not match its ambitions.

Decarbonising home heating represents one of the biggest challenges to the government achieving net zero, said the report. But the costs of switching to low-carbon alternatives to fossil-fuel heating are high and fewer households than expected have fitted a heat pump so far.

The Department for Energy Security & Net Zero (DESNZ) aims to reach 600,000 heat pump installations per year by 2028. But the committee reckons DESNZ’s progress so far does not match this ambition.

Consumers still face too much complexity and confusion to make informed decisions, including understanding whether they need insulation upgrades. There’s a huge challenge in increasing the number of trained heat pump installers too.

The committee says the government needs to be realistic about levels of consumer demand, raise public awareness of heat pumps and work with industry to make heat pumps more affordable. It will be essential that DESNZ carefully monitors the rate of installations against its ambition and evaluates progress regularly, it says.

It also needs to work out how to support households to decarbonise their homes where heat pumps are not a practical solution.

On the potential role for hydrogen, it says DESNZ’s work to trial the gas has been beset by problems, with key trials cancelled. Indecision over the role of hydrogen for heating is creating uncertainty for investors who need to invest in major low-carbon technologies.

The Committee of Public Accounts is appointed by the House of Commons to examine “the accounts showing the appropriation of the sums granted by Parliament to meet the public expenditure, and of such other accounts laid before Parliament as the committee may think fit”.

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