The introduction of hybrid heat pumps (hybrids) across Europe has progressed a lot more slowly than we thought it would when we first looked at them around 2012.
Essentially, the technology has not received the anticipated push from equipment manufacturers – remaining a portfolio product for most. And, despite generating very good carbon savings against alternatives, they rarely offer customers enough energy bill savings to justify their higher upfront cost (or encourage installers to push them).
Still, there remains two major arguments for keeping the faith that hybrids will have a key role in the energy transition.
- Carbon savings are good and only going to get better
Hybrids are today one of the best technologies for lowering yearly CO2 emissions from heating, in most countries. Unless the grid is still really dirty (e.g. over 500gCO2/kWh like in Germany) hybrids will deliver meaningful reductions (such as those we have calculated for other large heating markets like Italy, France and the UK).
This is the case as of now. And this advantage will grow as electricity grids continue to decarbonise. So, for many Member States the importance of hybrids should only rise up the ranks as legislators increasingly scramble for ways to slash emissions from the existing building stock.
- Hybrids enable energy sector values like ‘flexibility’
The major benefit hybrids have over competing options is the ability to switch quickly and remotely between gas and electricity e.g. to decrease the amount of electricity consumption at times when supply is tight / the grid is constrained (demand side response).
The operation of hybrids in this way, it should be noted, does have a lot of synergies with the use of micro-CHP – where the amount of electricity generation from individual devices could also be remotely ramped-up to essentially power the increased use of heat pumps e.g. when everybody comes home from work.
However, this use of micro-CHP in virtual power plant (VPP) mode has received a lot of attention with little progress towards commercialisation (the scale needed is a big limitation). And given the current trend among grid operators – who are focussing their flexibility demo projects on the use of hybrids (e.g ‘Freedom’ [UK], ‘Interflex’ [France]) – it seems that hybrids are gaining favour as the technology of choice for use in this application.
So, putting aside for a moment the various and significant challenges, it doesn’t take a hybrid evangelist to appreciate that they retain some strong attributes. This means, in my opinion, that hybrids most likely will be one of the tools used to decarbonise Europe’s building stock.
If you want to know more about our research into hybrids, get in touch with me.