Report from the HP Forum 2019 in Brussels

The Heat Pump Forum 2019 took place in Brussels on May 15-17 and was arranged by the European Heat Pump Association (EHPA). The Forum was opened by EHPA’s president Martin Forsén who talked about the possible impact of the youth moment, which has grown strong tanks to digitalization and social media, to affect policy makers and industry to start acting to stop climate change.

Day 1
One of the first speakers was a 11-year-old Marian Jones from Kids for Climate. She questioned how we could call ourselves civilized if we destroy the world and forget about our children’s future. She claimed that we know the problems, we know a lot of solutions and we need to act now. The clock is ticking!

Thereafter there were two presentations about the Europeans long-term strategy vision – keep the global warming below 1.5°C. the vision states that Climate neutrality should be the new normal! Before all greenhouse gas reduction was good, now this is not enough. The strategy consists of seven strategic building blocks:

1) Energy efficiency,
2) Renewables and Electrification
3) Clean mobility
4) Circular Economy
5) Networks and Interconnection
6) Bio-economy and carbon sinks
7) Carbon Capture and Storage.

At least No 1, 2 and 5 means possibilities for heat pumping technologies. In all the presented scenarios heat pumps play an important role for buildings while green hydrogen and electro-fuels do not show up in the scenarios until 2030 due to their high cost and high conversion losses. These gases should probably be used better in other sectors than in buildings. The outlook for district heating is ambiguous. Energy efficiency and renovation of buildings are the key enabler for reaching greenhouse gas neutrality.

The heat pump market development in the Netherlands, Germany and France was presented. In the Netherlands a steep increase has been seen for the last years and the influence of different policy instrument was discussed. The policy stating that all new buildings must be gas free, has stimulated the growth while noise and soil protection regulations have worked in the other direction.

In Germany a steady growth has been seen but heat pumps still have a small market share, especially for retrofit applications, but it is not more than just above 40% even for new buildings. Limiting factors are energy prices, capacity of skilled installers and that investment in heating system is often of low priority.

In France the marked dipped 2009 and 2010, but thereafter it has steady increased. In 2019 there is a new scheme for subsidies when replacing an old boiler. In this scheme a low-income family can get all the investment cost covered by subsidies and other families could 50% of the costs covered. In this scheme quality aspects are of top priority.

The afternoon offered two seminars where new approaches with large heat pumps in thermal grids in cities and heat pumps in industry were presented and discussed. The audience was informed about the largest heat pump in Europe, which can be found in Vienna – 39 MW and efficiency above 3 at 95°C. The conclusion from these sessions was that heat pumping technologies are excellent for sector coupling and heat pumps together with responsive CHP (Combined Heat and Power) and that thermal storage could be a good solution to decarbonize a city or a district.

A 5th generation of ultra-low temperature district heating, “Ectogrid”, was presented by E.ON. In this concept the same thermal grid is used both for heating and cooling, in combination with both central and distributed heat pumps. The first system of that kind has now been built in Lund, Sweden.

Day 2
The second day the program started with a digital morning. A representative from an Italian utility told about the “four key trends” that are shaping the energy sector – Decarbonization, Digitalization, Urbanization and Electrification. The energy market is under disruption and utilities are adapting to the new market environment. He also talked about the “four kinds of flexibility” that is needed – to maintain frequency, to avoid congestions, to prevent contingency and control and maintain voltage.

Lorcan Lyons at the EC Joint Research Centre said that heating and cooling represent half of the energy consumption in EU but does not get proper attention. Digitalization is most often applied in the other half. Heat pumps in combination with digitalization could offer flexibility, using the building itself as thermal storage, but this technology is not yet sufficiently exploited for this. As an example, in Germany 50% of the heat pumps are smart grid ready, but only 15% are connected to the internet. However, it is very important not to jeopardize the comfort for the users of the buildings.

Another speaker claimed that most of today’s building automation systems are not operated efficiently, due to a conservative and project-oriented industry. The saving potential could be up to 40% of the energy use. The session was followed by a panel discussion where the role of heat pumps were discussed.

The last session was about cities accelerating zero carbon renovation and examples showing that concrete action is needed to unleash the opportunities. The ambitious Roadmap to obtain carbon neutrality set up by the city of Leuven was presented as a good example. They will invest 4000 Euro per inhabitant of the city for the years to come.

In one of the last presentations Yong Chen from IRENA talked about the key achievements over the past 20 years

  • global wind power growth of more than ten times and auction price decline by more than 4 times
  • global solar PV power growth by more than 25 times and auction price decline by 18 times
  • global RE share in electricity has gone up from 18% to 25%
  • HPs is representing 10% of global heating sales.

However, he emphasized that the challenge ahead is huge to reach the net zero carbon emission. Heat pumps could play a critical role in buildings and would increase to over 250 million units to 2050. For low temperature heat needs in the industry sector, heat pump installations would increase to 80 million. However, the progress is currently off track.

Thomas Nowak concluded the HP Forum by stating that we can do much more than we think!! We are prepared to do things but we just need to pick up speed!

Pictures: 11-year old presenter and presentation IRENA