Scottish Government Gas Boiler Replacement Scheme

August 14, 20230

The Plan in Scotland

The Scottish Government are implementing the gas boiler replacement scheme which will replace gas boilers in Scotland with green heating systems, including heat pumps. This policy is to reform the current Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) ratings and will mean that properties with gas boilers in operation will receive a lower EPC rating and those with green heating systems will receive better EPC ratings.

At present, the metrics used for domestic and non-domestic EPCs are viewed as being inappropriate to support a transition to energy efficiency and low-carbon heating systems. Gas boilers are currently receiving better EPC ratings compared to heat pumps due to current ratings being measured by running costs, which favour gas heating over electrical heating systems. The aim is to enhance the current EPC system to empower property owners to make informed choices about how to improve their energy efficiency and cut their carbon emissions.


A Cause for Concern?

This news is receiving a considerable level of backlash from Lord Willie Haughey who owns a major heat pump supplier. He argues that the efficiency of heat pumps decreases significantly in colder temperatures and with Scotland reaching sub-zero temperatures in Winter, he worries that this will lead to an increase in electricity consumption from heat pumps, resulting in higher energy bills for consumers.

He states that specific types of heat pumps can malfunction at temperatures below -5oC and that heat pumps generally don’t work as well in colder countries. When temperatures are below freezing, this is when we would want the heat from the heat pump the most; therefore, this may incur higher costs due to excess electricity needed from the grid, which is considerably more expensive than gas.


Heat Pumps in Colder Countries

However, it should be noted that heat pump installations are most common in Europe’s coldest countries, with Norway and Finland taking the top 2 spots with over 60 heat pumps sold per 1000 households. It is incorrect that heat pumps do not work in colder climates, and although the efficiency decreases when it is colder, the coefficient of performance (COP) does not fall below 1.

Graph showing the uptake of air source heat pumps per 1000 households in countries across Europe.
Uptake of heat pumps per 1000 households vs average January temperature in 2021.

Tests performed on air-to-water heat pumps in Germany found that heat pumps produced 2 units of heat per unit of electricity when the outside temperature was -3.6oC or a COP of 2.3. Even at temperatures of -10oC, a COP of 1.6 was produced, and in Finland, air-to-air heat pumps produced COPs of 3 and 2 at temperatures of -10 oC and -20 oC respectively. For context, a typical COP for a natural gas boiler is around 0.9.

Even though the COP for an air source heat pump in the winter is higher than a gas boiler, the additional costs incurred from using excess electricity from the grid will be more expensive for the consumer. To avoid this, consider pairing a heat pump with a solar panel array. Any electricity generated from the solar panels can be used to power the heat pump during the winter months, bringing costs down.


So, Who Is Right?

Good Energy, a renewable energy supplier based in the UK, has recently carried out an analysis of their air source heat pump efficiency against a 2009 UK government analysis of gas boilers.  They found that Good Energy heat pumps are 4.1 times more efficient than the average UK gas boiler, which has an average efficiency of 82%. Modern gas boilers are usually around 90% efficiency and older boilers are known to be as low as 60%.

Lord Willie Haughey has said: “But the truth of the matter is that heat pumps don’t work as efficiently in Scotland as they do in other countries.”

Whilst Willie Haughey may be correct in his statement, this is not a cause for concern and Scotland should view air-source heat pumps as an effective way to reduce energy costs and carbon emissions.

In Scotland, homeowners can apply for grant funding for energy efficiency improvements up to 75% of the total cost of the upgrade, which will be up to £7,500. Rural and island homes can obtain up to £9,000 if they qualify for the rural uplift due to higher installation costs. This makes obtaining a heat pump much more affordable.

If your business is considering an air-source heat pump to reduce energy costs and meet net-zero targets, then get in touch today to see how OnGen can help you do just that.

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