As a key solution for decarbonizing homes, heat pumps will be critical for meeting the UK’s legally binding commitment to achieve net zero by 2050 – Report from the BEIS/IEA Heat Pump Research Seminar

The HPT TCP ExCo delegate from the UK, Oliver Sutton from BEIS, organized a hybrid onsite and online seminar on November 8 in conjunction with the IEA’s HPT TCP Executive Committee meeting, which took place in London the same week. The seminar was opened by Oliver Sutton and the chairman of the HPT TCP, Stephan Renz, who introduced the Technology Collaboration Programme on Heat Pumping Technologies by IEA (HPT TCP) and welcomed the attendees to the workshop. The purpose of the seminar was to exchange information about some exciting research and demonstration projects going on in the UK, policy measures taken to decarbonize the heating sector in the country, and present some of the work already in progress through IEA HPT TCP projects. In addition, Stephan Renz gave an overview of the strategic work plan for HPT TCP (link to full presentation).

Tara Deshpande, Deputy Director for Clean Heat Policy at BEIS, delivered the next presentation and summarised the UK government policy on heat pumps. Heating is a priority for energy security since it accounts for more than a third of UK emissions, uses half of the country’s natural gas supply, and helps the country move away from uncertain international gas markets.  Given the variety of buildings and consumer preferences, Tara discussed the important role of heat pumps in decarbonizing. However, to meet the challenge, a variety of heating technologies will likely be needed, including solar thermal, biomass, direct electric heating, heat networks, hydrogen for heat, and heat pumps. She discussed the heat and building strategy, which will provide £3.9bn in funding to decarbonize buildings, including £450m for the boiler upgrade program (including subsidies for heat pumps), £950m for the home upgrade grant, £800m for social housing, and £1.4bn for the decarbonization of the public sector.

The UK Government has set a goal of deploying 600,000 heat pumps by 2028. To achieve this, the UK policy package has highlighted affordability, installer skills, and the electricity system as the three most crucial enablers of heat pump deployment. For example, in addition to the grant, the VAT has been reduced to 0% for energy-saving materials and technologies, including heat pumps. Moreover, since smart and secure electricity systems are vital enablers, BEIS is consulting on a smart mandate. Finally, they have launched a £60 million Heat Pump Ready Innovation Programme to foster additional innovation, lower the cost, and enhance the performance of heat pumps (link to full presentation).

In his presentation, Martin Forsén of NIBE gave an outline of the upcoming EU regulations, policies, and wider challenges. He demonstrated how the overarching EU-2030 targets that were set in 2018 had been revised. For instance, the GHG-Emission reduction has been revised from 40% to 55% with the goal of net zero by 2050 and negative beyond 2050. This includes the EU-Emission Trading System (ETS) and F-gas regulation. The Energy Efficiency has been increased from 32.5% to 36%, which now incorporates the Energy Performance of Buildings Directives (EPBD), Energy Labeling Regulation, and Energy Efficiency Directives. Additionally, the Renewable Energy Directives III targets have been updated from 32.5% to 45%, with the EU level targets being binding and the MS level targets being non-binding.

Martin also spoke about the EU’s high ambitions of decarbonization and energy efficiency and the greater recognition of heat pumps from policy makers in order to double the current deployment rate of individual heat pumps. He stated that when it comes to the recognition from policymakers, we have passed the tipping point; however, in some markets, we still have a way to go to convince the end consumers. He concluded his presentation by highlighting the major challenges ahead, including Refrigerants, Ecodesign requirements and upcoming requirements related to a circular economy. (link to full presentation).

The Heat Pump Deployment Challenge was discussed by Lucy Yu of the Centre for Net Zero, who gave a presentation on the open-source agent-based model used to simulate the interventions or combinations of interventions needed to achieve the UK Government’s goal of deploying 600,000 heat pumps by 2028. They have modeled key government and industry interventions, such as (i) the Boiler Upgrade Scheme £5-6k grant for heat pumps, capped at £450m from April 2022-25, and (ii) Redistribution of policy costs across gas and electricity and (iii) Fossil fuel boiler ban commencing on January 2035. For each scenario, they assessed the likelihood that the government’s 2028 installation target would be achieved. According to the results of their research, upfront costs present the largest barrier to adoption by household agents. Even in their most ambitious projections, the upfront cost of a heat pump is still 1.5- 2 times more expensive than an equivalent boiler in the short and medium term. Early ban announcements, consumer awareness raising, and installer training together are key to reaching government targets and beyond. (link to full presentation).

Bean Beanland, Director for Growth & External Affairs at the Heat Pump Federation, presented an overview of the UK heat pump industry, challenges and opportunities. His talk focused on how the UK government’s long-term policy can encourage the industry to train and diversify the workforce, collaborate with the government to educate consumers, invest in supply chain development and bring the best experiences in heat networks into the UK. He said their organization works to raise awareness, understanding and confidence in heat pump technology across both domestic and commercial sectors and collaborates with government, industry and consumers to make this a reality. (link to full presentation).

Dave Pearson of Star Refrigeration gave highlights from several examples of large-scale heat pump projects in the UK. He said large heat pump installations could change the way heat is generated in the UK and help decarbonize existing buildings in cities. He spoke about one £25m upgrade of the district heating system in Drammen, Norway. This innovative project uses a water source heat pump to take low-grade heat from the adjacent fjord and turn it into high-grade heat to supply heating for the 60,000-strong community. Dave emphasized as well as air quality; the key driver was to move from biomass and gas.

Similarly, Kenneth Hoffman of GEA Energy presented projects using high-temperature heat pumps producing heat from 80 to 150 °C, including steam generation for industries. He discussed the variety of industrial ammonia heat pump installations by GEA in several nations of Europe, including Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and the UK. He mentioned examples of GEA Heat Pumps used in UK Heat Networks, including the Islington Council Bunhill 2 Heat Network, the Gateshead District Heating Network, and the Swaffham Prior Heat Network. (link to full presentation).

Oliver Sutton of BEIS provided an overview of the progress of a new UK heat pump project as part of the IEA HPT Annex 60: Retrofitting Heat Pump Systems in Large Non-domestic Buildings. This Annex focuses on “medium” and “shallow” levels of renovation, where the choice between heat pump systems can be more complex. While complete system replacement is a possible option in these situations, constraints of cost and time will often favor solutions where at least some of the existing system is reused. (link to full presentation).

Dan Roberts of Kensa provided highlights from some innovative ground-source heat pump installations in the UK. He spoke about several cases where large heat pumps have been installed, including in social housing, one flexible installation with PCM heat storage. (link to full presentation).

Noel Salmon from the Innovation team in BEIS gave results from BEIS innovation projects, including the Electrification of Heat demonstration project. The £14.6 million Electrification of Heat Demonstration Project aims to demonstrate the feasibility of a large-scale roll-out of heat pumps in Great Britain. The project was funded by BEIS’ Energy Innovation Programme (2015- 21), which was the predecessor to BEIS’ current £1bn Net Zero Innovation Portfolio (NZIP), which aims to accelerate the commercialization of innovative clean energy technologies and processes through the 2020s and 2030s. As a key solution for decarbonizing homes, heat pumps will be critical for meeting the UK’s legally binding commitment to achieve net zero by 2050. Heat Pump Ready will support the development of innovative solutions across the heat pump sector. (link to full presentation).

Alex Hobley from BEIs provided a summary of the Heat Pump Ready Programme which is split into 3 separate delivery streams: Stream 1: solutions for high-density heat pump deployment. Up to £30 million of Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) funding from spring 2022. Stream 2: developing tools and technology. Up to £25 million of grant funding for projects to overcome barriers to heat pump deployment, beginning spring 2022 and Stream 3: trial support and learning. Up to £5 million contract from spring 2022.

Charlotte Shields, final year ERBE Ph.D. researcher, gave the last presentation focused on research on the interaction of people and heat pumps from real installations. She used the four phases of domestication theory to demonstrate the transition from boilers to heat pumps. Using the domestication phases, she related the appropriation phase to consider having a heat pump, the objectification phase to acquiring a heat pump, the incorporation phase to living with the heat pump and the conversion phase to enjoying having a heat pump. Her methodology consists of conducting interviews with the adopter & non-adopter, householders, non-adopter survey and review of actors’ online materials. (link to full presentation).