Gas heat pumps struggle to gain traction in the market even though the technology is ready and proven (nearly 15,000 installed in Europe and 800,000 in Asia, for a wide range of applications). In most European markets, installations number less than 1% of annual heating installations.
Delta-ee has been investigating the potential opportunities for gas heat pumps in commercial buildings, as part of research for the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change. We identify potential for at least an order of magnitude growth for gas heat pumps in the UK by 2020, with the best opportunities in sectors such as health care, restaurants, hotels and education.
Why are we positive? Here are three reasons:
- Gas heat pumps can already make economic sense against the incumbent and notoriously challenging-to-compete-with gas boiler.
- Gas HPs represent off gas grid opportunities too (e.g. switching from oil boiler to LPG Gas HP).
- Gas HPs have less impact on our aging electrical grid infrastructure and represent an opportunity to decarbonise without so much grid investment to support it.
But there are significant barriers to overcome if this potential is to be unlocked. Based on our research, the top five barriers to gas heat pumps being installed were:
- Specifiers - arguably the most critical link in the supply chain to get gas heat pumps to market - are a block. “Why would we choose an unknown technology when we can more quickly design a boiler solution which we know works?” quote from specifier
- Limited sales channels and routes to market for gas heat pumps create challenges for accessing the technology (especially in the UK)
- Lack of awareness and/or in some cases poor perception of gas HP technology due to lack of information
- Upfront cost of gas heat pumps relative to incumbent technology (i.e. gas boiler)
- Policy - this does not currently set a framework which places Gas HPs on an even playing field
We believe that gas heat pumps should receive any incentive offered to other renewable technologies, including electric heat pumps, but that incentives alone are not the key to unlocking the market. There is a role to play for gas heat pump suppliers and heating suppliers to drive this market themselves. A focus on information dissemination throughout the value chain, developing the supply chain, and paying particular attention to specifiers will be a strong starting point to building a sustainable market.
Find out more about our previous work with DECC here.
For more information on our in depth gas heat pump reports visit our Heat Pump Research Service web page.