By 2050 the big portion will be Heat Pumps

Im globalen Vergleich liegt der deutsche Wärmepumpenmarkt noch weit zurück. Woran das liegt und was Deutschland von europäischen Nachbarn lernen kann, erläutert Martin Forsén, Vorstand der European Heat Pump Association (EHPA) und Manager International Affairs bei NIBE.

1 Million heat pumps in Germany in 2020 – are you impressed?

Martin Forsén:
Both, yes and no. No, because Germany is one of the big countries for heat pumps, you‘ve had the knowledge, the competence, and the industry has been available in Germany for a very long time. From that point of view you should have reached one million heat pumps long before.

However, now seeing the uptake in the recent years, when you seem to finally come through, and market acceptance from policy makers, that this is the way forward. And now I am impressed by that development in the last couple of years.

Compared to the European market or to other countries, what do you think can Germany learn from countries like Sweden regarding carbon reduction and climate goals?

Looking at what we achieved in Sweden, is that when it comes to heating of buildings the carbon emission has been reduced by 90 percent by the extensive use of heat pumps.

Also we learnt that the main market for us in terms of volume and sales is the retrofit market. So we have been able to retrofit old buildings that used to use oil. We hardly have any gas grids to talk about, though.

And do you think the development in Sweden has to do with your system of CO2-emission pricing?

Indeed. And here we were lucky to have the CO2-taxation introduced to heating oil, driving up the price significantly. Early, from the mid 1970‘s when we had the first oil crisis, there was a general introduction of electricity based heating and we built up a very strong electricity sector.

Related to that, the major mistake with “Energiewende” from my point of view was, in order to finance this development, to put taxes on electricity instead of making the polluter pay from the very beginning. I mean, the way to electrification and to renewable electricity, is to make it available and affordable for the people.

What impact, from your point of view, should the European Green Deal have on the European heating industry?

The Green Deal itself was just setting the agenda for the new commission that came to place. Which was very good – as the commission really wants to take it a big step further.

When I first started my travels to Brussels, when the EHPA was really small in 2005/2006, the EU focus was pretty much on energy efficiency and Renewables like wind power, hydro power, solar thermal, etc. In this context heat pumps were added as an “interesting technology” IM GESPRÄCH MIT MARTIN FORSEN 41 that is very promising but not really available yet. Even though at that time the market in Sweden was really blooming.

What we are seeing now is that the technology has developed over time, and with the Green Deal, all the EUpapers are highlighting the heat pump technology: The electrification of the heating sector is central for the energy transformation in all of Europe particularly with relation to the so called renovation wave.

If all these targets will be reached, what would the heating sector in Europe look like in 2050 in your imagination?

In my imagination it will happen, I am quite convinced!

A couple of years ago in the development of the European heating sector we were mainly seeing that the boiler industry was shifting from noncondensing boilers, to condensing boilers. Regarding heat pumps we saw a decent growth but still only a few heat pumps.

I think by 2050 this will be completely different: the big portion will be heat pumps and a very small portion will be other technologies.

Are there any risks from your point of view?

What is still a bit of a question mark when it comes to the heating market is, what happens with green gas hydrogen. In my personal opinion, I believe that is the wrong way to go. I believe for certain that green gas, hydrogen and others, has a place in the energy system, but not for heating purposes.

I think that the green gas and hydrogen will have to be used in other sectors that can‘t be electrified easily like heavy road transport, lorries, marine transportation and perhaps aviation. It could also play a role like a kind of battery storage for green electricity.

In Sweden nowadays the people mindset has shifted towards the heat pump. We also have competition with the district heating. But even the district heating companies have realized that it does not make economic sense to have district heating for simple family houses – they want to keep the customers in multi-family buildings and commercial buildings, though. So just like you we are facing an opposition from the district heating industry.

One last question: How would you improve your current lifestyle to make it even more climate friendly?

I want to get an electric car. Also, I invested money in green electricity: I am part owner of a corporation of wind electricity. And of course I have heat pumps! The first thing I did when I moved into my own house: get rid of the old boiler and install the heat pump. So I am the living proof, that heat pumps last a long time: it is still running, almost 20 years, and it has delivered tremendously in terms of economics and it works perfectly well in an old house built 1912.

That sounds good, Martin! Thank you so much for this interview.