Demand for green heat options are increasing, driven by a combination of social and regulatory pressures. The challenge will be in meeting the demand, participants at Energy Voice’s Green Heat 2023 said.
The UK aims to install 600,000 heat pumps per year by 2028, which sounds ambitious. However, as Scottish Enterprise’s Jan Reid said this target is “to reach where France was two years ago”.
Europe is in the throes of an energy crisis. This has seen unprecedented pressure on consumers and governments, as prices have spiralled.
“Electrification with heat pumps with storage will be the lowest cost most resilient way to heat homes,” David Townsend of TownRock Energy said.
Heat pumps will probably play the leading role in decarbonising heat. The equipment could provide 80% of demand.
What will meet the remaining demand, though in areas such as cities where space concerns rule out heat pumps? The clear winner for the panel was heat networks, with demand tipped to reach 80 TWh by 2050.
Vattenfall is one company working in the space that is keen to support the shift to heat networks. The company’s Paul Steen noted Vattenfall had formed a joint venture with Midlothian council. Work on the site starting within the last few weeks.
“We now have all contracts in place for heat supply, heat offtake and delivery of contracts – we’re hitting the ground running,” Steen said.
No go for hydrogen
Given the one-two of heat pumps and heat networks, there was little support for hydrogen. The resource has garnered high-level political interest, featuring in the UK and Scottish government’s plans, but the challenges of distribution to the nearly 3 million households in Scotland seem a step too far.
Allowing a debate to continue, pitting hydrogen against heat pumps, means that “we are not going to hit our net zero obligations”, Mitsubishi Electric’s Jonathan Prescott said. “We have an existential choice to keep kicking the can down the road and hope hydrogen is going to solve our problems but the reality is that is not a realistic expectation.”
Top-down direction is needed for the sector, Prescott said.
“Clarity from the top allows manufacturers, it allows colleges, innovators to all buy into it and invest in the future,” he said.
The Scottish government has been eager to back the sector, seeing this as an opportunity for growth – an economic and environmental boost.
“For me, one of the things we have committed to as the Scottish government is developing a public engagement strategy around the heat and buildings transition … we need to create partnerships across the whole community and bring in stakeholders,” Catherine Williams from the Scottish government said.
One area posing challenges for the shift is a lack of trust from consumers. People are sceptical of new technologies and heat pumps are still seen as an exotic choice.
Andrew Middleton of British Gas noted the importance of communication with customers.
“If we’re intimidating customers” with complex jargon “they’re going to switch off and that dialogue stops. We need to simplify the messages and how we talk about these topics but we’ve also got to find a trusted messenger – and a big corporate energy company may not be that. Nothing is more important than local word of mouth and community advocacy.”
You can watch the Green Heat event here.