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European Heat Pump Summit 2015 #2 – eyes wide shut when it comes to the mass market

With the delicate scent of Lebkuchen (gingerbread) in the air Delta-ee’s Heat Pump Research Service braved the orderly streets of Nuremberg to attend the biennial European Heat Pump Summit. In search of views and thoughts from those in the thick of things as to what the future holds for heat pumps in Europe, we found that most eyes were on heat pump technology and performance rather than how to explicitly increase uptake across Europe.

Technical performance was the talk of the town

Showcasing the latest and greatest heat pump testing and trial project results, it quickly became clear that the gaze and attention of many summit attendees was on the technical performance of heat pumps in a variety of settings. Improved testing standings, certification processes, and overall performance presentations held audiences, with eyes wide-open, on the edge of their seats for much of the two day summit. Gas and hybrid heat pumps also feature strongly, with numerous manufacturers presenting on their technical wares, and tantalising listeners with case-studies of their successful application across Europe.

Complementing the technical performance talks were key presentations on the development of suitable heat pump applications for “new” markets:

  • Integrating heat pumps into district heating networks
  • Further developing the role of heat pumps in industrial applications
  • Using heat pumps to complement and strengthen smart-grids
  • Combining intermittent renewables with heat pumps to grow heat storage in Europe
  • The role of heat pumps in new-build as part of the EU Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD)

Whilst providing interesting food-for-thought as to the future role of heat pumps in a renewable European energy grid, emphasis was placed on the need to better understand the technical role of heat pumps in these new markets. Interestingly, how best to bring these heat pump solutions to market did not feature prominently in these discussions.

Market uptake of heat pumps and the elephant in the room

Providing a brief respite from technical topics were a handful of presentations dealing with the ongoing dilemma for many in the heat pump game, how to improve sales to reach the mass market. Opened by a brief look at the state of European sales statistics by the European Heat Pump Association’s Thomas Nowak, Delta-ee’s Julian Jansen followed-on with acute insight into how to develop a suitable customer proposition in the fledgling hybrid heat pump market. Based on results of the first comprehensive survey of hybrids sales data, conducted by Delta-ee, the presentation was well received, sparking discussion about the need to include the customer in the ongoing heat pump conversation.

With many markets in Europe still struggling to gain traction with frugal and wary customers, engaging with the customers is of vital importance if heat pump players are to expand adoption and acceptance of heat pumps in Europe. Some Danish players are experimenting with alternatives to the direct-sale approach, e.g. providing heat-as-a-service to customers, as we uncovered as part of our work in Energy Services Innovation.

Join the discussion

So what role do you feel the customer has to play in the future success (or not) of heat pumps in Europe? How can we ensure our eyes are not wide-shut when it comes to engaging with customers in low-carbon heating? Let us know or join our LinkedIn Heat Pump group and start a discussion!

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