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Are heat pumps the key to accelerating the energy transition?

Views: 5000     Author: Site Editor     Publish Time: 2022-10-10      Origin: Site

Are heat pumps the key to accelerating the energy transition?

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· Heat pumps operate similarly to refrigeration systems such as air conditioners (ACs), with the only difference of producing hot instead of chilled water and/or air, and offering both heating and cooling options.




· Heat pumps consume a lot less energy and are at least three times more energy efficient compared to conventional heating and air conditioning systems.




· Heat pumps cost more upfront but help save money on utility bills.

 

Heat pumps have long been heralded as a vital solution to electrification yet they only account for less than 10 percent of global building heating demand, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).  

The IEA’s Net-Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario would require the installation of 600 million heat pumps globally by 2030, up from 177.3 million in 2020.  

In addition, with energy security being top of mind in response to rising geopolitical tensions and continued supply chain disruptions, the IEA also highlighted the deployment of heat pumps as part of its 10-point plan to reduce dependence on Russian natural gas.  

The climate benefits of heat pumps 

Heat pumps operate similarly to refrigeration systems such as air conditioners (ACs), with the only difference being that they produce hot instead of chilled water and/or air, and offer both heating and cooling options.  

During winter months, heat pumps transfer heat from the cold outdoors to heat your home, while during summer, they remove heat from the air inside and push cool air back. Because they transfer heat from the air, water or ground instead of generating it by burning oil or gas such as boilers or furnaces, heat pumps consume a lot less energy and are at least three times more energy efficient compared to conventional heating and air conditioning systems. As heat pumps run on electricity, if that electricity is sourced from renewable energy, they can make a substantial contribution to building decarbonization.   

Challenges to adoption 

Despite their proven benefits in terms of greater energy efficiency and reduced carbon emissions, heat pumps have not yet seen the same market growth as solar, wind or batteries, due to challenges related to costs, shortage in qualified installers and insufficient manufacturing and policy support.  

Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems typically last 15 to 20 years, so households would realistically only consider replacement every one to two decades if their existing equipment breaks down. In such emergency cases, families will opt for the cheapest equipment that’s readily available on the shelves, with heat pumps often not the most accessible or affordable option.  

“A few things need to align to make sure people get a heat pump under those conditions. Contractors need to be familiar with the technology, so they’ll recommend it. Heat pumps need to be in stock at the local distributor, so people don’t need to wait too long. The price needs to be low enough, so families can afford the upfront cost. And any subsidy program needs to be simple enough to navigate, so people can actually get the money,” said Alexander Gard-Murray, a political economist at Brown University’s Climate Solutions Lab.  


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