Strategic outlook: Heat pump market development in China

Heat pumps are widely deployed in China. Both air source and ground source heat pumps have found their share of the market. This development is supported by the Chinese government through various policies, such as a coal-to-electricity project. On top of cutting CO2 emissions, the Chinese shift from coal incineration to heat pumping technologies also reduces local air pollutants such as particles and NOx.

Air source heat pumps are mainly used in individual residential buildings, also in rural areas. The upfront cost is acceptable to many households, and national policies and funds have helped the sales staying at a high level for some years. In recent years, examples on such policies are Guidance on Promoting Electric Power Substitution and Work program on air pollution prevention and control in Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei and surrounding areas.

One strong supporting structure is a national standard saying that air source heat pumps are required to be used at ambient temperatures as low as -25 °C. It also requires that the primary energy utilization rate of air source heat pump heating is higher than that of coal heating when the outdoor temperature is
higher than -12 °C.

Ground source heat pumps have been used for more than 20 years in China. They are mainly used for heating of buildings with a central heating demand. Since the 1980’s, the development has passed four stages. During the first 20 years, heat pumps were mostly present in the HVAC field. Then, with the entrance of the new millennium, the products matured, but the installation competence was still quite low. Rapid development began in 2005, also supported by energy efficiency measures initiated by the government. From 2014 the area covered by ground source heat pumps has grown steadily, and also shallow geothermal energy has come into focus.

On the other hand, the sales of ground source heat pumps have declined since 2013. There are some explanations to this. One factor is that there are fewer public buildings constructed, a type of building where ground source heat pumps often are installed. Another factor is previous problems with installations, leading to a lower end-user confidence in the technology.

Also ground source heat pumps are supported through policies and subsidies. Examples of this are 5-year plans for development and utilization, as well as local financial subsidies for implementation projects.

Despite the somewhat decreasing sales numbers, when all aspects are looked at it can be assumed that heat pumps have a bright future in China.


Lingyan Yang, China Academy of Building Research, CABR, China


The text has been shortened by the HPC team
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