Paula Abreu Marques is Head of Unit for Renewables and CCS Policy at DG Energy, European Commission
When heat pumps run on mainly renewable energy, like hydropower, photovoltaic’s and wind, they deliver about three times the amount of energy compared to what they consume in electricity. That can lead to substantial energy savings. Renewable sources of heating and cooling can also be cheaper than fossil alternatives in the long-run, and can thus help consumers to reduce their energy bills. In addition, if heat pumps are operated intelligently, meaning that they operate when electricity prices are low, they might save even more. This could also save Europe from further grid expansions, with reduced congestion leading to a more efficient use of the electricity grid.
How can heat pump technology achieve more recognition in discussions about energy and climate targets?
Despite the efficiency of heat pump technology, various market failures, like split incentives between builders and users of buildings, lack of information and long-term planning have reduced their uptake. We will reach the estimated quantities of renewable heating and cooling in 2020 only if we go beyond currently implemented policy incentives. Many Member States will need to employ additional measures in order to achieve their targets.
Heat pumps are a local technology providing jobs at the point of installation and keeping know-how in Europe. How important is green employment in the EU’s energy targets?
In light of current economic developments, increased employment is crucial for Europe. Renewable energy technologies that reduce import bills and increase employment in the EU are a win-win strategy. It is estimated that the geothermal energy sector in 2011 provided around 51,000 jobs in Europe. In the short-term, we expect heat pumps to remain the driving segment for employment in the EU geothermal sector.
What can an industry association such as EHPA do to help the Commission achieve its goals?
Industry associations can contribute by increasing awareness of the benefits of renewable energy technologies and by ensuring their effectiveness, for example by ensuring that European producers deliver top quality equipment. They can also help Member States to devise their renewable energy strategies by highlighting the potential for heat pumps.