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In my previous blog I shared some of the Delta-EE Heat team’s key takeaways from ISH Digital, focussing on the decarbonisation agenda and product innovations. The next two themes we wanted to share are around how heating manufacturers are embracing digitalisation. While this is mainly being focussed around supporting installers – and rightly so - it’s important companies don’t overlook the other opportunities that digitalisation and connectivity can unlock.
Takeaway 3. Supporting installers in the heating transition is – rightly – a key priority for manufacturers.
In the heating industry – and for the Delta-EE Heat research team! - ISH is an event not to be missed. It’s a great place to hear about the latest heating product launches and innovations in one of Europe’s biggest heating markets, and from some of its biggest brands. This year’s ISH quite different from usual, with everything happening online via the new “ISH Digital” platform. While it felt a bit sad not to be able to catch up with contacts in person over a coffee or beer, for us it was still a very worthwhile event to attend.
There were several stand-out themes for us at the event: from product innovations, to new digital tools, to support for installers. Here are the first two of our major takeaways from the event. We’ll be publishing more in the coming weeks.
In this blog I want to share the example of the city of Amsterdam to highlight how successfully decarbonising heat will mean using a range of technologies & energy vectors, targeted based on a local approach to planning. Thus far in the heating transition this approach has been far from the norm, but it looks like things could be starting to change.
An orange blueprint to make heating green
It’s almost 13 years since I first immersed myself in understanding the heating market, and began supporting Europe’s biggest energy suppliers and HVAC companies in navigating the heating transition. 2020 seems like a good time to reflect on what’s changed since then and consider what the next decade could bring.
Thirteen years ago I had just completed a PhD quantifying the impact of climate change on Icelandic glaciers – and predicting how these impacts would play out in future decades. The impact of continued warming – and the need for urgent action to stop it – was painfully clear. This desire to solve the climate crisis was of course what drove me to the energy industry. The science of climate change was clear – now to tackle action and adaptation. I focused in very quickly on heat, as one of the most critical (if most challenging) parts of energy consumption to decarbonise.
In discussions about decarbonising heat, we often hear people lament that heating just isn't "sexy" enough. A few months ago I was at an event where one of the UK environmental NGOs complained to a room of heating industry professionals that heat pumps are "bl**dy ugly", and don't really offer anything over gas boilers in terms of delivering comfort. Why can't we learn from the likes of Tesla or Apple, they asked, and make a product that offers a superior user experience and looks alright outside our homes?
This got me thinking about how comparable heat pumps are to electric vehicles, and to Teslas in particular. So I looked into the stats, asked the HVAC manufacturers what they thought, and debated the topic with my colleagues. There are certainly some lessons I think we can take from EVs, but there are also fundamental differences between heating and vehicles that we shouldn’t forget. In my view, all this talk of “making heat sexy” is a generally unhelpful distraction from the challenges we really need to address. Here’s why.
There’s been a lot of talk about the potential for ‘Heat as a service’ & ‘Comfort as service’ (HaaS & CaaS) to revolutionise Europe’s heating markets, reaching more end-users with new, potentially low-carbon, heating appliances. While our research has turned up a number of HaaS-like offerings, so far, we’ve only found one example of what we consider to be ‘true’ heat as a service: Eneco, in the Netherlands.
On reflection, this isn’t surprising. The Netherlands has all the right ingredients that make it the key market where innovative, ‘new heat’ offerings are likely to emerge, and ultimately to succeed. The 7 key has are:
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