Heat pumps are an electric, renewable heating and cooling technology that appears in the associated impact assessment but receives only a few mentions in topline communication. This is despite the fact that heat pumps play an important part in the EU’s goal of improving energy independence (REPowerEU) and boosting net-zero companies (the Net Zero Industry Act).
The European Commission presented the EU’s climate target plan for 2040, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 90 percent from 1990 levels. While this level maintains the EU on pace to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, the critical function of heat pumps in decarbonising heating and cooling in buildings and industries should also be given importance.
The EU ‘communication’—which is not yet a legal proposal—identifies electrification as the primary driver of the energy transition but makes no mention of the equally critical need to shift away from fossil fuels. What’s more, heat pumps—an electric, renewable heating and cooling technology—feature in the accompanying impact assessment but only get a few mentions in the topline communication. This is despite heat pumps’ critical role in the EU’s goal to improve energy independence (REPowerEU) and its strategy to boost net-zero industries (the Net Zero Industry Act).
“Setting lofty targets but sidelining crucial technology to reach them is like hiking up a mountain with no equipment,” commented Jozefien Vanbecelaere, head of EU affairs at the European Heat Pump Association. “After the postponement of the expected Heat Pump Action Plan, this comes as another blow to a net-zero industry that is investing massively in Europe and has huge growth potential.”
The reduced prominence of heat pumps in the communication coincides with the establishment of an Industrial Alliance to speed up the deployment of small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs) and a communication on industrial carbon management. These technologies are not ready to be delivered to the market. Heat pumps, on the other hand, are a mature technology that contributes to a long list of the aspects crucial to achieving our 2040 targets: energy efficiency (heat pumps are up to five times more efficient than fossil fuel boilers); electrification; grids (heat pumps offer flexibility); energy system integration (aggregated flexibility from smaller HPs and industrial heat pumps that recover waste heat); fossil fuel phase-out; and industry decarbonisation with industrial heat pumps.
Despite the numerous benefits, the EU Commission surprised EHPA in December by postponing the release of the EU Heat Pump Action Plan until after the European elections. This prompted 20 NGOs, and industry associations, as well as 60+ CEOs and industry leaders, to call for its swift release to provide the policy clarity needed to boost flagging heat pump sales.
“An energy transition in heating is essential to achieving Europe’s ambitious targets, but an energy transition in heating without heat pumps will be impossible. This needs to be remembered in the context of setting a higher greenhouse gas emission reduction target for the 2040 plan, which needs to be connected to action on the ground,” added Vanbecelaere.
The next European Commission, which takes office later this year, will address the 2040 communication.