Europe’s booming demand for heat pumps exposes bottlenecks

(EurActiv, 28 Mar 2022) Sky-high gas prices have sent demand for heat pumps booming across Europe, exposing a range of bottlenecks limiting industry’s ability to deliver, including a shortage of skilled labour, as well as the need to simultaneously insulate buildings to ensure maximum efficiency.

Heat pumps, sometimes described as reverse air conditioners, use electricity to concentrate heat potential and are comparatively more energy efficient than gas boilers.

As Europe’s appetite for gas comes under scrutiny for financing the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine, Europeans are rushing to install heat pumps in a bid to eliminate Russian gas.

The task is gigantic, though. Only 17 million heat pumps are already installed across Europe relative to Germany’s 20 million gas boilers.

“We need a gas reduction strategy, and one that really has an effect,” said German Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck on 20 March. “That means we should stop installing new gas heating systems in houses,” he added.

In practice, this means installing heat pumps instead of gas boilers. Already in December, the newish German government decided that any new heating system installed after 1 January 2025 should be required to run on renewable energy. The industry understood this benchmark as an implicit mandate for heat pumps.

Germany is not alone in doubling down on the technology, with France also shifting subsidies to support the installation of new heat pumps. In the US, the Biden administration even reportedlyconsidered a wartime industrial effort to mass-manufacture heat pumps and ship them across the Atlantic in order to help Europeans wean themselves off Russian gas.

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EurActiv, 28 Mar 2022: Europe’s booming demand for heat pumps exposes bottlenecks