Energy minister accuses those with 'vested interests' of launching 'campaigns of misinformation' against heat pumps

Lord Callanan arrives for an EU General affairs Council in the Europa, the EU Council headquarter, the EU Commission headquarter
Lord Callanan has alleged "campaigns of misinformation" have been launched against heat pumps to spread "misinformation" to stop uptake (Image credit: Getty Images)

The Energy Minister has alleged that "campaigns of misinformation" have been launched against heat pumps by those with a "vested interest in maintaining our current supply of gas boilers".

Lord Callanan, Minister for Energy Efficiency and Green Finance, said a lot of the information regarding heat pumps is "nonsensical" and dismissed many of the "myths" surrounding the issues with ground and air source heat pumps.

A gas boiler representative has denied being behind this anti-heat pump campaign, despite evidence suggesting gas boiler companies had been lobbying to delay the government's proposed "gas boiler tax" and promote hydrogen heating as an alternative to heat pumps.

Myths spread by those with 'vested interests'

Lord Callanan has alleged these myths around heat pumps have been caused by "campaigns of misinformation" launched by people with "vested interests".

In an interview on The Climate Show he stated some negative press regarding heat pumps are "nonsensical" as he said: "I think this misinformation is definitely being spread and some people are funding campaigns of misinformation. But, satisfaction rates for people who have installed them [heat pumps] are sky high.

"A survey was done last year and 92% of people were happy with their installation and a lot of the information out there is just nonsensical.

"'They don't work in the UK climate', the biggest number of heat pumps installed in Europe is Norway and we know the temperatures in Norway compared to the UK."

He was asked why these myths have such traction, even within the government, to which he said: "There are a number of people taken in by the misinformation being spread, primarily with people with vested interests. I'm not going to mention names but people have a vested interest in maintaining our current supply of gas boilers and the like."

What are the myths around heat pumps?

Lord Callanan was responding to the negative attention heat pumps have received in the national press, with criticism ranging from their cost to their efficiency.

An often-cited issue with heat pumps is their inefficiency in cold weather, but heat pumps do work in cold weather and are capable of working at temperatures as low as -20°C.

The noise of heat pumps has also been questioned, prompting a DEFRA review into the potential noise pollution of heat pumps, but it was found there were "a low number of complaints" from residents who lived near a heat pump when asked about the noise and it was recommended permitted development restrictions for heat pumps should be removed.

The cost of heat pumps is also questioned with the upfront cost of a heat pump reported as being much higher than a gas boiler, which normally costs £2000-3,000. However, in many cases, this is not true with the Boiler Upgrade Scheme offering a £7,500 grant for heat pumps and other schemes such as the Cosy Octopus scheme offering free heat pumps for eligible households.

Heat pumps are seen as an eco-friendly alternative to traditional fossil fuel-fired boilers

Octopus are offering free heat pumps to eligible homeowners (Image credit: Octopus Energy)

Gas boiler representative rejects accusations

A gas boiler representative refuted the claims of spreading misinformation, saying they simply want to do "what is right for the consumer".

Mike Foster, a former Labour MP who now works for the Energy and Utilities Alliance (EUA), who represents boiler manufacturers and gas companies said:  "If we alienate the consumer on the journey to net zero, my fear and the fear of people in organisations like mine is that we'll fail to get to net zero, and that will be the biggest crime."

Foster denies any anti-heat pump campaign funded by EUA, claiming: "Our members make heat pumps. They make boilers. They make parts for heat networks, heat interface units. So we are technology agnostic, but we want to do what is right for the consumer."

However, the EUA has been accused before of trying to persuade the government to promote hydrogen heating instead of heat pumps as it was claimed this would cause less disruption to gas companies' business models as hydrogen elements can be fitted to existing gas boilers rather than removing boilers altogether.

It was also alleged the EUA had been lobbying the government for a two-year delay in the requirement to install more heat pumps and further delay the government's Clean Heat Market Mechanism that proposes to compel boiler manufacturers to increase sales of heat pumps starting in 2024, or else face fines up to £300.

Joseph Mullane
News Editor

News Editor Joseph has previously written for Today’s Media and Chambers & Partners, focusing on news for conveyancers and industry professionals.  Joseph has just started his own self build project, building his own home on his family’s farm with planning permission for a timber frame, three-bedroom house in a one-acre field. The foundation work has already begun and he hopes to have the home built in the next year. Prior to this he renovated his family's home as well as doing several DIY projects, including installing a shower, building sheds, and livestock fences and shelters for the farm’s animals. Outside of homebuilding, Joseph loves rugby and has written for Rugby World, the world’s largest rugby magazine.