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The sales of heat pumps are expected to soar to record levels this decade as countries look to shift away from fossil fuel dependence for heating requirements, primarily due to the current global energy crisis, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said in a report.
The installed capacity of heat pumps in buildings worldwide is over 1,000 GW currently. IEA has projected the installed capacity of heat pumps to hit 2,600 GW by 2030.
Global heat pump sales rose by nearly 15% in 2021, double the average of the past decade. It was primarily led by Europe, where it surged by around 35%, the report titled ‘The Future of Heat Pumps’ said.
A heat pump extracts heat from a source, such as the surrounding air, geothermal energy stored in the ground, nearby water sources or waste heat from a factory. It then amplifies and transfers the heat to where it is needed.
Because most of the heat is transferred rather than generated, heat pumps are far more efficient than conventional heating technologies such as boilers or electric heaters and can be cheaper to run.
Figure 1: Annual growth in sales of heat pumps in buildings in selected regions, 2021 (IEA)
Fossil fuel-based heating
Natural gas meets 42% of building heating energy demand worldwide.
While one-sixth of global natural gas demand is for heating buildings, it is about one-third in the European Union (EU).
A spike in heat pump adoption would eventually lead to a 9% electricity demand rise by 2030.
Increasing deployment of heat pumps will contribute to over half of the 29% decrease in demand for fossil fuels in space and water heating by 2030.
The IEA projected that such rapid growth would cut gas consumption by 7 billion cubic meters (bcm) in 2021 and by 21 bcm in 2030— equaling 15% of the EU’s imports from Russia last year.
IEA projects that to cut its dependence on natural gas imports from Russia before 2030, Europe will require at least 45 million heat pumps, three times more than currently in use.
An increase in the deployment of heat pumps would massively decrease global dependence on gas by over 160 bcm by 2030.
The increased adoption of electric pumps in colder nations like the EU and the U.S. helped mitigate nearly three-quarters of heating-related emissions in 2021.
Annual installations of heat pumps in Europe alone are set to total nearly 7 million by the decade’s end, up from just 2 million in 2021. The report projected China, North America, and Europe to lead the heat pump markets globally by 2030, addressing 20% of the global heating needs.
Heat pumps will also fulfill nearly 40% of the industrial demand by 2030, the report said.
Figure 2: Country/region-wise heat pump capacity in buildings for 2021 and 2030 (IEA)
“Heat pumps address many of policymakers’ most pressing concerns on energy affordability, supply security and the climate crisis. Policy measures are in place today, but they need to be reinforced urgently to allow heat pumps to fulfill their significant economic and environmental potential,” said IEA’s Executive Director Fatih Birol.
IEA projected that constant policy support like the Inflation Reduction Act passed by the United States would boost the deployment and adoption of heat pumps globally.
A surge in the deployment of heat pumps would also increase global employment threefold to over 1.3 million workers over 2021-30, with a third of the new jobs in China, 20% in Europe, and 15% in North America.
These three regions will witness faster expansion in heat pump installation and manufacturing capacity.
According to IEA’s World Energy Outlook published recently, the global energy crisis caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is accelerating the transition to a more sustainable and secure energy system.