Column: Heat pumps are at the centre of the energy transition

Decarbonizing the energy system. This transition needs a holistic approach, beyond individually optimized components. An example of a more holistic concept is a system including a heat pump, which also makes use of the thermal inertia in a building. The heat pump uses the ground as a renewable energy source, providing cooling in the summer. The building acts as a TABS – thermally activated building system, providing a comfortable indoors climate. This adds up to a demand response system, meaning that it can offer flexibility to the electricity market. This example is developed in the EU project hybridGEOTABS (

Through examples like this it is clear that heat pumps will continue being relevant also in future thermal systems. Another pro-heat pump aspect is energy quality. Heat pumps deliver low-temperature heating, and that is exactly what is needed for heating of buildings. The high-temperature heating from fuel burning may then be dedicated to processes where that is needed. All technologies and energy vectors are necessary for the decarbonization transition. We just need to choose the right one for each application.


Lieve Helsen, Professor, Faculty of Engineering Science, KU Leuven – EnergyVille, Belgium
Wim Boydens, Boydens Engineering and Visiting Professor, Ghent University, Belgium

The text is shortened by the HPC team
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