The European Heat Pump Race
The Front Runners
As European countries embrace heat pump technologies in their residential sectors, it is evident that some nations are leading the way while others are struggling to keep pace. The adoption of this technology has been influenced by several factors, including effective policy schemes, existing insulation standards, and climatic conditions.
Unsurprisingly, Europe’s coldest countries with superior insulation have achieved the highest heat pump penetration. According to the International Energy Agency, Norway takes the lead with 60% of its buildings equipped with heat pumps, closely followed by Sweden at 43% and Finland at 41%.
Norway stands out with an impressive average of 29,745 heat pumps per 100,000 people, indicating approximately one heat pump for every 3.3 individuals. The Norwegian government has implemented a subsidy scheme, offering a minimum of £1,100 to incentivize homeowners to transition from traditional fossil fuel-based heating systems. This initiative has been highly successful, resulting in the complete elimination of oil heating in the country. Furthermore, since almost 100% of Norway’s electricity comes from renewable sources, these heat pumps contribute to a genuinely green heating solution.
Finland and Sweden are not far behind, with 24,159 and 22,727 heat pumps per person, respectively. In 2022, Finland installed 196,000 heat pumps, leading to a significant reduction of two million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. Sweden has made heat pumps the default choice for new homes, which has contributed to the consistent installation of at least 100,000 heat pumps annually over the past decade.
While the Scandinavian countries have set the benchmark, large European countries are making progress in catching up. France, for instance, boasts an unmatched total of 3.9 million heat pumps, indicating a remarkable 71% increase over the past four years. The introduction of an eco-friendly building regulation in 2012 played a pivotal role in guiding the uptake of heat pumps, with 40% of new buildings now opting for this technology. This industry has not only fueled the economy by creating 20,000 jobs but has also saved a total of 12 million tonnes of greenhouse gases.
Italy has a substantial total of 3.2 million heat pumps installed nationwide, with an astonishing 502,000 units added in 2022 alone. This remarkable growth can be attributed to strong policy measures, including a scheme that covers 110% of the installation cost of a heat pump. The government bears the entire cost and gradually reduces taxation over the next five years, ultimately covering the remaining 10%.
In January 2023, Germany introduced a rebate scheme offering up to 40% reimbursement on the cost of purchasing and installing a heat pump. This initiative addresses the fact that only 4% of buildings in Germany are currently equipped with heat pumps. Approximately half of Germany’s 41 million homes rely on gas heating, while a quarter still run on oil.
The United Kingdom, unfortunately, lags significantly behind its European counterparts, with only 1% of buildings fitted with heat pumps. With a total of 380,000 heat pumps, this translates to approximately 564 heat pumps per person. Concerningly, only 3% of people have plans to purchase a heat pump in the coming year.
Despite these challenges, uptake in the UK is slowly increasing, and the government aims to achieve 600,000 annual installations by 2028. To facilitate this, they have introduced the boiler upgrade scheme, which reduces the cost of air source heat pumps by £5,000 and ground source heat pumps by £6,000. The scheme is expected to provide grants for up to 30,000 homes, further encouraging the adoption of heat pumps in the UK.
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Check out our article on the Great British Insulation Scheme and if it does enough to tackle our “leaky” housing stock.