As part of our recent European Heat Summit held in Berlin, our Gas Heating Service team hosted a unique invitation-only roundtable to discuss and debate the top issues and opportunities facing suppliers of high efficiency gas heating systems like micro-CHP, fuel cells, and gas-fuelled heat pumps.
We heard from a wide range of speakers, from industry associations like COGEN Europe, to heating industry giants like Baxi and Vaillant, to specialist technology developers like Tennessee’s Stone Mountain Technologies Inc. and Sunfire from nearby Dresden.
In the adjacent room, our colleagues from the Electrification of Heat Service simultaneously ran their roundtable – addressing similar issues but from the perspective of suppliers of electric heating.
Rallying support at the local level to counteract the negative view projected from Europe’s top level
It was clear that a main issue currently facing the gas heating sector in Europe is the level and nature of engagement with policy makers at all of the local, regional and national levels. Sales remain largely tied to areas where areas where products receive better than average incentives or treatment in policies such as building regulations.
Stakeholders have to step up their efforts to increase the number and frequency of national and sub-national support schemes in order to get product volumes up and costs down at an accelerated rate, as well as grow the typical level of understanding of the role these products can play in achieving decarbonisation goals in general. The prevailing sentiment coming from the top-down in Europe is increasingly hostile to natural gas, and therefore it will be wise if not essential for suppliers to engage on every level they can, with a targeted approach based on communicating how low carbon gas solutions can support in alleviating specific home-grown issues within the heat sector.
Versatility could emerge as a key selling-point for the sector around decisions for the future
Flexibility was discussed as a key attribute offered by gas technologies like micro-CHP, fuel cells etc. – one that to date has arguably been underplayed by industry. There are three main layers to this argument, relating to: flexibility in fuel source (products either running on fuel blends, biogas or 100% hydrogen) in the range of product combinations (e.g. Vaillant spoke about how it was making all it products ‘hybrid ready’) – not just to work with all options in its own portfolio, but with its competitors too), and also with regards to the times at which they produce heat (like being called on during demand response events or, in the case of CHP, being ramped up to provide electricity for neighbouring heat pumps at times of peak heating demand).
In our opinion this is a message which should resonate with policy goals around an orderly, manageable and resilient transition to a lower carbon energy future*.
New products increasingly need new customer propositions to break in to the market
Following the session, we polled our Gas Heating Service subscribers to understand what the main topics of interest on their minds after the discussions in Berlin were. The results will steer our programme of research over the coming months.
Understandably, new business models to bring new, high efficiency gas heating technologies to the market continue to raise widespread interest. During the two days at the Summit we heard from up and coming players like BoostHEAT – who had just launched their gas heat pump (GHP) across Europe with the use of a ‘pay as you go’ offering – and shared the highlights of the study we prepared for the FCH-JU investigating new business models and financing arrangements for stationary fuel cells. Click here to read our summary of the 2nd day.
The potential to use hydrogen for heating, particularly to improve the economic case for PEM fuel cells, is another topic attracting a lot of attention right now as more and more demonstration projects are being commissioned across the EU.
Get in touch if you interested to learn more details of the event or of the research programme; Steven Ashurst, Service Manager – [email protected] / +44 (0)131 625 1003.
* Previous studies from Delta-ee have demonstrated the benefits of including low carbon gas solutions in supporting the transition to a low carbon future for residential heat with a significant contribution from electric heat pumps and low carbon heat networks.