An inquiry by the House of Lords dubbed the government's flagship green heating program as "seriously failing.".
With the help of the Boiler Upgrade Scheme, households can upgrade from a gas boiler to a low-carbon heat pump for £5,000.
The national target for green heating is "very unlikely to be met," according to a statement made on Wednesday by the Lords Net Zero Committee.
The government responded by announcing that it would start a marketing campaign to raise awareness of the program.
Nearly 17% of the UK's greenhouse gas emissions, which are to blame for climate change, come from heating.
The government wants to install 600,000 low-carbon heat pumps every year in five years, up from the current 50,000 installations, in order to meet the UK's climate change targets.
In order to grow the heat pump market in England and Wales and lower installation costs for homeowners, the Boiler Upgrade Scheme was created.
However, Baroness Parminter, the chair of the Lords Committee, harshly criticized ministers in her letter to the government for not doing more to promote the scheme, which is on track to only distribute half of the grants allotted.
The scheme "isn't working as well as it needs to," she told the BBC. The government must increase public awareness immediately. People must have the assurance to understand the significance of these changes. ".
Homes will cost less to heat and emit fewer emissions as we transition to renewable electricity because heat pumps, which are three times more efficient than gas boilers, are powered by electricity.
Last year, Anthony Hibbs used the program to have a heat pump installed in his newly constructed home in Newcastle-under-Lyme. His new heating system, he told the BBC, was "absolutely brilliant.".
But he claimed it was challenging to find information on installers and the program: "I had to look online and do a lot of research. At first, it wasn't simple, and I've never seen the program advertised as such. ".
According to research conducted by the government itself in the autumn of 2022, 80% of UK residents had no idea what a heat pump was, let alone were aware of the program.
The government has recently started a marketing campaign to raise public awareness even more, and we're looking at options to make sure our goals are met, a spokesperson for the government told the BBC. " .
The government should make it clearer which installers to use, according to John Taylor, 71, another BUS voucher recipient: "I searched online and found cowboys out there. There isn't much advice pointing you in the direction of good people; you are on your own. ".
In comparison to the 130,000 registered gas heating engineers, there are only 3,000 heat pump installers in the UK.
The committee claimed that although the government is paying for some installers' training, engineers need more assurance that their time is well spent getting retrained.
The program's issues are similar to those of the government's previous Green Homes Grant, which was intended to assist households with energy efficiency measures like insulation but was abandoned in 2021 after less than a year due to a shortage of installers.
However, Rebecca Dibb-Simkin, Chief Product and Marketing Officer at Octopus Energy, which the Committee commended for its investment in heat pump design and training, claimed that the program had increased confidence in the industry and that Octopus Energy has 50,000 people on its waiting list for a heat pump.
Government and business should collaborate on this, she said, and we hope the grant will continue.
"We are confident in our ability to create demand, and the grant would assist people in covering costs, so it's really a match made in heaven. ".
According to the committee, the grant is insufficient for lower- and middle-income households, and they are turned off by installing a heat pump because it is more expensive up front than installing a gas boiler.
Even with the grant, Mr. Taylor's and Mr. Hibbs' heat pumps cost them, respectively, £8,500 and £6,000.
The Energy Savings Trust's Stew Horne, head of policy, told the BBC: "That upfront cost is a real issue, and policy has to focus on addressing that. either through grants, inexpensive loans, or green financing. ".
According to him, the model was not novel and was already in use in Scotland, where they also provide free energy advice to assist households with the installation of a new heating system.
In an effort to lower the cost of heat pumps, nations like France and Germany have pledged to invest twice as much money in their low-carbon heating programs and to provide larger grants for low-income households up to £9,700.
The Lords Committee for Environment and Climate Change stated that the government must both increase the program's scope to match this scale and ensure that any unused funds from Year 1 of the BUS, which they estimate to be worth about £75 million, will be carried over to future years.
What would happen to this unspent funding was not addressed by the government.
According to Baroness Parminter, she told the government loud and clear: "They have to get that money back.". If the first-year underspend inadvertently finds its way back to the Treasury, that will not be acceptable. The funds were set aside with good intentions.