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The Progressive Policy Think Tank

Government installing fewer than 6 per cent of the heat pumps needed to decarbonise nation's homes

Delayed heat and building strategy must now deliver on ‘cash, comms, jobs and standards’ to fairly achieve ‘difficult’ part of drive to net zero, says IPPR

The IPPR think tank is calling on the government to deliver an ambitious and credible home insulation and clean heating strategy that enables everyone to benefit from warmer homes and cheaper energy bills. This comes as new analysis reveals the hugely increased scale of energy efficiency and heat pump installations still needed to reach net zero in time.

The think tank lays bare the scale of the challenge as it outlines the gap between the number of energy efficiency and heat pump upgrades currently being installed, and the number that will be needed annually by 2028, as set out by the Climate Change Committee (CCC) to reach net zero. IPPR’s analysis shows that the UK is only installing:

  • 6 per cent of the heat pumps needed
  • 9 per cent of the cavity wall insulation needed
  • 3 per cent of the loft insulation needed
  • 2 per cent of the solid wall insulation needed

Homes and buildings are responsible for 14 per cent of the UK’s emissions, but so far the government has not published details of how it plans to decarbonise the nation’s homes, and previous schemes have been poorly designed and scrapped early. IPPR describes decarbonising homes and buildings as ‘one of the most difficult’ parts of the drive to net zero, but the researchers are clear that the challenge is far from insurmountable.

The new analysis warns that while public concern over climate change is at an historic high, support for action is not unconditional. Focus groups held by IPPR over the summer with homeowners and landlords revealed concerns around affordability, disruption and trust issues that the government’s forthcoming heat and buildings strategy will need to address if it is to be successful.

Cash, comms, jobs and standards

The think tank proposes that the government build a big and bold programme to shift the dial on home heating – the GreenGo Scheme. GreenGO would provide a unifying, and well-advertised, brand under which financial support from government for green measures and high-quality advice can be marketed to and accessed by the public. The scheme would deliver:

  • Cash – Grants and zero-interest loans for home retrofits. The government should directly fund an average investment of £6 billion a year into the scheme between now and 2030, which would help an average of approximately 650,000 households per year install insulation and heat pumps. The government should also slash VAT on retrofits to 5 per cent.
  • Comms - A well-advertised source of accessible, comprehensive information with physical outlets on high streets across the country as well as a dedicated website and phone lines. People can’t and won’t make the clean heat switch unless they are aware of the support available.
  • Skills – A street by street, area by area retrofit plan will drive job creation. IPPR estimates 300,000 good green jobs could be created to carry out the installations. To ensure the workforce has the necessary skills, the government should establish skills academies and a Green Training Fund.
  • Standards – Targets for phasing out polluting heating systems will spur innovations in clean heat, and minimum standards for energy efficiency will boost the quality of old and new homes. IPPR calls for all new homes to be built to ultra-high energy efficiency by 2023, all oil heating systems to be eliminated by 2028 and gas heating systems removed by 2033.

Luke Murphy, head of the IPPR Environmental Justice Commission, said:

“The UK has a long way to go to reduce the pollution created by the way we heat our homes, but ensuring everyone has an affordable, clean and warm home is eminently achievable with the right policy action. The government must not repeat the mistakes of previous green home schemes, and instead go big with a scheme that truly flips the dial on home decarbonisation.

“In its forthcoming heat and buildings strategy the government must stump up the cash, set robust standards, support skills development, and communicate, communicate, communicate, if the UK is to be successful on the home front on the climate crisis.”

Joshua Emden, IPPR research fellow, said:

“Our research shows that people are very aware of the need for action on climate change, but are unsure what that means for their heating and are worried about the costs and performance of new technologies.

"This is why it is so critical that the government is clear on what’s needed, clear on the benefits of low-carbon heating and clear on the financial support available. Improving energy efficiency and introducing heat pumps can mean warmer homes and lower energy bills, as well as creating hundreds of thousands of installation jobs across the country.”

Lesley Rankin, IPPR researcher, said:

“To be a credible host at the COP26 global climate summit in Glasgow, the UK must get its own house in order. The UK government has said it is ‘serious about 1.5 degrees’ – and since home heating accounts for 14 per cent of the UK’s annual CO2 emissions, a credible, long-term heat and buildings strategy is the best way to show just how serious it is."


Luke Murphy, Josh Emden and Lesley Rankin are available for interview


Robin Harvey, Digital and Media Officer: 07779 204798 [email protected]

David Wastell, Head of News and Communications: 07921 403651 [email protected]


  1. The IPPR briefing, On the Home Front by Luke Murphy, Joshua Emden and Lesley Rankin will be published at 0001 on Wednesday 8 September. It will be available for download at:
  2. Advance copies of the briefing are available under embargo on request
  3. Chart showing progress in installing heat pumps and insulation
  4. Figures based on analysis of installation rates in 2020 across technologies listed compared to required installation rates in 2028 and 2030 based on CCC modelling. Whereas heat pump installations increase over time, CCC modelling suggests energy efficiency installations should be frontloaded, following a ‘fabric first’ approach, hence installation rates are lower by 2030.
  5. The IPPR Environmental Justice Commission was established in 2019 to develop the ideas and policies to bring about a rapid green transition that is fair and just. In July 2021 the commission published its final report Fairness and Opportunity – setting out a comprehensive plan for the UK to reach net zero fairly, drawing on the insights of citizens’ juries held in diverse locations across the UK. The report is available to read here:
  6. IPPR is the UK’s pre-eminent progressive think tank. With more than 40 staff in offices in London, Manchester, Newcastle and Edinburgh, IPPR is Britain’s only national think tank with a truly national presence.