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Is cooling the future of heating?

On December 13, IEA published a commentary written by the IEA analysts Thibaut Abergel and Chiara Delmastro. This commentary, starts with pointing out that high-efficiency heat pump technology is the cornerstone of sustainable buildings. Heating and cooling systems, are the two main end-uses in building operations, and since cooling demand is expected to grow considerably, a cold crunch is looming behind the buildings heat decarbonisation challenge.

In the article, it is pointed out that low-carbon heating and cooling in buildings need a common strategy and a third of the global population will require heat pumps for both heating and cooling. The authors recommend to exploit synergies across heating and cooling strategies to lower the cost, since this can accelerate the deployment of more efficient reversible heat pumps, help to phase out fossil fuel equipment and therefore support buildings sector decarbonisation objectives. In particular, heat pump sales for heating need to triple by 2030 and become the leading technology in the long-term. They reach more than 50% of heating equipment stock by 2050 for both residential and commercial applications in the Sustainable Development Scenario.

The report states that a number of heat pump technology designs are already ready for deployment. However, the diversity of building types, end-use service demand patterns and climate conditions require further enhancement for them to adapt to a variety of working environments. Therefore, innovation is a must to further accelerate heat pump deployment.

The authors conclude that governments hold the key to low-carbon heating and cooling – to stimulate deployment they should apply the following measures:

  • Incentives for low-carbon heating technologies
  • Performance-based labels
  • Remove fossil fuel subsidies

Read the full commentary here.