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Barry powering up future of home heating

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Barry Sharp Renewable Heat 1

At least one million homes in Scotland will need to switch from gas heating to zero emissions alternatives by 2030 to hit Scotland’s net zero targets.

Heat pump engineer Barry Sharp is one of the thousands of skilled trades people Scotland will need to tackle heat decarbonisation in homes and buildings.

He started installing ground and air source heat systems almost 20 years ago.

He said: “I was a gas engineer and a customer who worked with heat pumps commercially asked me to install one in their house, it was a challenge and I learned a lot on that first job but I’ve never looked back.

“Because I moved into this at early stages, a lot of this job has been learning as you go and keeping up to date as new products develop and come on to the market. 

“With the drive to net zero well underway, now is an exciting time to be part of the industry.”

At current rates only 3,000 households a year are installing low and zero emissions heating.

That will need to grow rapidly to around 64,000 a year by 2025 to keep targets on track.

Barry accepts it’s a challenge but says it’s one we’re well placed to deal with.

He said: “I always compare the scale of the task to that of rebuilding after the second world war.

“What’s important though is to remind people it’s not necessarily just about changing your heating system, you need to look at the fabric of your house, insulation and windows.

“Deal with the whole mini ecosystem you have in your home properly and it’ll drive down costs and carbon emissions. And there could be some easy quick wins for you.”

Barry is one of the founders of Renewable Heat and is currently training three Modern Apprentices to join the industry.  

Barry is a former apprentice himself. He said: “I’d been working in electrical manufacturing and semi-conductors after university, but I was made redundant when the dot com bubble burst.

“My dad and two my uncles worked in heating, so at 25 I switched across to an apprenticeship and I’ve never looked back, it’s led to running my own business.”

With the drive to net zero well underway, now is an exciting time to be part of the industry.

Barry Sharp

Renewable Heat

Barry’s one of the advisers on a new heat decarbonisation group linked to Scotland’s Climate Emergency Skills Action Plan.   

The plan identifies a series of priority areas focused on employers, education and individuals that will help Scotland capitalise on job opportunities emerging from the net-zero transition.

The heat group is looking at the whole industry in Scotland to build and influence investment within the sector, strengthening industry and employer input into priority action and delivery.

Elaine Ellis, Skills Development Scotland’s Skills Planning Manager for Construction, said: “Across the construction sector in Scotland, net zero is bringing quality opportunity, especially for young people.

“There will be opportunities for more than 72,000 people the sector across all disciplines in the next ten years.”

Barry said: “The opportunities in this industry are really about to explode.

“As this work scales up, and more plumbers and heating engineers move into heat pumps, they will need dedicated training and it’s great to have the opportunity to influence and inform that from a place of real experience. 

“There will be so many high value, well paid jobs, it’s a great opportunity for any young person.”

And he says one of his favourite aspects of the job isn’t always one that people coming into the industry expect.

He said: “My favourite thing about this job is working with people.

“Yes, the majority of my role is technical, but you have to be able to build trust and maintain relationships with clients, installing heat pumps also takes longer than a boiler, around 12 days in total from design and admin.

“You’ll also be back for annual servicing and maintenance, so you will be working with clients long term.”

He added “I love my job. They say two of the happiest professions are heating engineer and hairdresser, because they both see the job out from start to end and because of the relationships with a client.”

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