Heating and Hotwater Industry Council
Hot To Trot
On 1 June, Stewart Clements took up his position as director of the Heating and Hotwater Industry Council (HHIC). In an exclusive interview, he sets out his plans for the organisation, including his hopes for it to shape the government’s agenda
What appealed to you about working for the HHIC, and what will you bring to your new role?
Having been in the industry for some 30 years, I have a huge amount of relevant experience. Working for an association such as the HHIC allows me to give
something back. It also gives me the opportunity to
help shape the industry I have been involved with for many years, while pursuing my interest in politics –
killing two birds with one stone.
As for what I will bring to the role: experience, enthusiasm and most importantly, a level head.
What do you think are our biggest challenges up to 2020?
Firstly, achieving recognition of the importance of heat in the wider energy-efficiency agenda. So much emphasis has been given to things such as insulation, and rightly so. However, as heating and hot water can account for up to 60 per cent of total domestic energy use, an equal footing for heat is required.
The heating industry has a part to play in the quest for recognition. We need to be bolder in stating our case to government. We also need to draw attention to the industry’s unique position. A new boiler is installed in a UK home every 20 seconds on average, so installers are perfectly placed to advise consumers on energy efficiency, and the government should make use of this route to market.
The role for HHIC is to help those heating installers understand policy, and how it can affect or benefit them and the houses they visit. HHIC’s ability to take
a technical document or argument and address it simply, enabling it to be understood by all within the industry, comes into play here.
Those who work in the heating and hot water industry are the experts, not the department responsible for the policy. The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) that is looking after ErP (the European directive on energy-related products) also looks after light bulbs, tyres and televisions, to name but a few, which are all, arguably, easier to understand than heating appliances. The easier and simpler we can make our messaging, the greater the opportunity we have to be fully understood.
What has surprised you most about the challenges facing the heating industry
since joining HHIC?
There have been many surprises, but the one that stands out the most is how the government has continued to ignore the very industry it is trying to change. Time and again I have seen both manufacturers and installers – the backbone of the industry – consulted and then ignored.
The Green Deal was a prime example of that. If government had listened to the industry’s advice about many of the scheme’s hindrances, the debacle that was Green Deal could have been avoided.
Input from the people in the know is crucial if we
are to deliver affordable energy while achieving our carbon emission targets. HHIC will continue to take that message to Westminster.
What support will you be seeking from the government to enable the energy industry to overcome these challenges?
To me, the industry “ask” from government is quite a simple one: to make a long-term commitment to a single workable energy strategy. For example, we need clarity on the long-term future of the RHI (Renewable Heat Incentive), ECO (Energy Company Obligation) and sources of energy supply such as shale gas.
To achieve economies of scale on renewable energy products at a manufacturing level and reduce costs to consumers, hundreds of thousands of pounds need to be invested. Yet manufacturers are understandably reluctant to make this level of investment until market demand increases. This is where government schemes play an important role. The fact that government has yet to make a decision on the feed-in tariffs is ludicrous.
What support will you be seeking from HHIC members to help with this process?
Trying to be heard can use a lot of energy. The HHIC is designed to give everyone in the industry one voice.
By being engaged in our activities – attending meetings and supporting our messages through the press – members have an opportunity to shape the industry in which they thrive.
Over the coming months HHIC will be establishing a Heat Council: an industry/government forum, that brings together employers from across the domestic heating industry and supply chain and officials from DECC, to drive change and make low-carbon heat a reality for UK homes.
HHIC believes that, by bringing industry and government together in this way, we have a real opportunity to deliver on our energy targets. Our recent report, Pathways II, identifies the practical steps required, which is why HHIC is best placed to lead the Heat Council.
First on the agenda for the Heat Council will be to ask the government for a sensible workable scheme designed to achieve what schemes in the past, such as Green Deal, have failed to do. Setting up such a scheme will be possible only with industry working collaboratively, and recognition of the importance of heat.
What are the key messages that you would like to drive forward as director of HHIC?
In addition to the above, the key message for me concerns controls and system design. Upgrading a heating system from an old inefficient boiler to a modern condensing
one could save the consumer up to £380 a year. But without good control and system design, the true benefits won’t be realised.
It is estimated that 70 per cent of homes do not have the minimum heating controls installed, as specified in the building regulations. If installers were to motivate even
50 per cent of their customers to fit the minimum heating controls, the difference that could make to our climate targets is considerable.
In addition to the potential impact on UK targets, every job is also an opportunity for installers to grow their business. From a single radiator change to a completely new heating system, taking an in-depth approach to every job could pay dividends for the UK, and for installers.
I would also like to showcase the world-class manufacturing of HHIC’s members. Greater recognition of this could pave the way for the UK to lead the world in a heating revolution.
What would you say to someone considering joining HHIC?
If you want to influence policy, drive innovation and help develop industry standards, then join us. Now is the perfect time.
The average time in seconds between each new domestic boiler installation in the UK. Installers are well placed to give energy efficiency advice
Since then the organisation has faced a number of battles to safeguard the oil heating industry as well as embracing new renewable technologies.
Wolverhampton-based Northern Gas Heating has grown rapidly since it was set up in 1998