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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.
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:
The Netherlands has set some of the most ambitious targets in Europe to phase out natural gas in heating (and elsewhere), aiming to be “natural gas free” by 2050. This is no small ask in a country where, today, almost 90% of the >7million homes use natural gas - usually via an individual boiler (or “CV-ketel”) as their main source of heating and hot water.
Since the gas free target was set, heat pump sales have grown rapidly, increasing numbers of new homes are being built without a gas connection, and the government subsidy supporting renewable heating installations – the ISDE – proved so popular, it had to be closed to new applications part-way through 2019.
The Netherlands is at the forefront of the move to decarbonise the European heating sector through electrification of heat, driven by a policy goal to phase out natural gas. In the Netherlands, this drive has been strengthened by a series of earthquakes in the north of the country that have been caused by natural gas extraction. This is quite a shift as, similarly to the UK, the Netherlands has previously been a country dominated by gas heating. 85-90% of homes currently use natural gas as their main heat source.
Cate Lyon, manager of Delta-EE's Electrification of Heat research, says that building regulations have been the key to kick-starting the electrification of heat in new build housing.
In my last blog, I explained why I think now is the time for air/air heat pumps (A/A HP). There are strong opportunities in the residential heating market in Europe. But in our conversations across the heating and energy industry, we still meet challenges from those not yet engaged in A/A HPs. Here are some of the major myths and challenges we hear - and why we still think A/A HPs should not be ignored.
Challenge #1: “A/AHPs are good for cooling but suboptimal as a primary heating solution”.
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