June 21. 2024. 6:38

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Three countries became heat pump forerunners in 2022, Germany did not

Heat pump sales, an integral part of the EU’s plan to kick Russian gas to the curb, saw record growth in 2022, with France, Poland and Finland standing out most, however, Germany is not among them.

Invented in the last century, heat pumps – often referred to as “reverse fridges” – offer some of the best heat-for-energy ratios out there. Using electricity to concentrate ambient heat, even at negative outside temperatures, they can run four times more efficiently than a gas boiler.

The EU’s 2022 REPowerEU plan aimed to “double the rate of deployment of heat pumps,” referring to 10 million hydronic heat pumps “in the next five years” and 30 million by 2030. Sales figures from 2022, a record-breaking year for the industry, indicate that we may be on the right track.

“2022 was a phenomenal year,” explains Thomas Nowak, secretary general of the industry body, the European Heat Pump Association (EHPA). Last year, heat pump sales grew by 38%, building on 2021’s already record-breaking growth of 34%.

That puts the total figure of heat pumps in the EU at 20 million, which heat 16% of residential and commercial buildings, EHPA added.

With its largely decarbonised electricity grid, France continues to be the EU’s volume leader, with about 4.25 million heat pumps installed.

Finland, pulling ahead of Norway and Sweden, enjoyed the largest growth figures in relative numbers. For every 1000 households, 70 Finnish families purchased a heat pump in 2022.

The heat pump market in Poland, which is not known for being a clean energy champion, ended up being 2022’s biggest winner, growing by 102% from 2021. The almost 200,000 heat pumps sold in Poland put the country head-to-head with Europe’s richest countries on a per capita basis, just behind the Nordics.

In total, heat pumps installed in the EU reduce the bloc’s CO2 emissions by some 54 million tonnes of CO2 – which nearly amounts to Greece’s annual emissions.

EU executive accelerates green household heat, forgoes large-scale systems

Faced with an energy crisis, the European Commission has presented an emergency regulation to speed up permitting processes across the EU, which has already drawn criticism for not including district heating and industrial-size heat pumps.

The laggard

Germany, once Europe’s largest importer of Russian gas, does not stand out in the 2022 market data. The heat pump market in the country, where 600,000 gas boilers were installed in the last year, is slow to grow.

Last year, 236,000 heat pumps were sold, growing the market by 53%. But, compared to the country’s population, that growth is relatively paltry. For example, in Finland, where every 14th household purchased a heat pump last year, while in Germany it is just one in 170.

This, Berlin wants to address by banning pure gas boilers from 2024 along with any heaters that run on less than 65% renewable energy.

Heat pump makers are racing to build up the production capacity to match the German government’s 2024 target of installing 500,000 heat pumps a year.

For one of Germany’s key players, Viessmann, this will boost so-called “hybrid” heat pumps – that can run on gas if necessary.

“Hybrid heat pumps are a huge opportunity to quickly reduce the use of fossil fuels in the existing stock,” said Viessmann’s head of German public affairs, Kai Lobo.

Boost for Germany’s heat pump makers as industrial policy meets climate action

The heat pump industry, the new darling of the German government, must grow rapidly to achieve the 2024 target of beginning the installation of 500,000 pumps a year, which Berlin is happy to assist in.