The European Heat Pump Summit (powered by Chillventa) is always eagerly anticipated by the heat team at Delta-EE. This year was no exception, with a packed agenda discussing the current state of the art in the design of all types of heat pump, and applications spanning from domestic to industrial, from low temperature to high temperature, and using a wide range of refrigerants. Contributions came from further afield than just the EU with India, Japan and China being notable contributors.
Given the wide range of topics up for discussion, what were the key takeaways? My top three are given below:
1. Increasing digitalisation of heat pumps was evident
The rise of connected devices was discussed throughout the event. Both heat pump and increasingly component manufacturers are placing more and more value on the benefits connected devices can bring to their businesses. IoT, connectivity and digitalisation were touted to facilitate not only better design and operation of components to better suit the needs of a heat pump in a given application, but also enable access to potential new value streams such as flexibility (see below).
Nonetheless, it should be remembered that data from any connected device is only valuable if it is put to good use – I think we will see a rapidly increasing role for aggregators and platform developers in unlocking the value of connectivity.
2. Flexible use of heat pumps for sector coupling – one to keep an eye on
The use of heat pumps to enhance energy system flexibility has been a topic of interest through the heating sector for some time. Presentations on offering grid balancing and demand side response using heat pumps, both at the domestic and district heating scale (including the implications for components) arrived at the same conclusion – that technically, offering flexibility and DSR services is equally possible with small and large scale heat pumps.
However, it seems to me that there is still a lack of clear value streams and business models to facilitate heat pumps for sector coupling. Until there is more clarity, this will be the key limiting factor which inhibits the ramp up of heat pump sales for this promising application.
3. Low GWP refrigerants – solutions are available now
The conversation around the use of refrigerants with lower global warming potential (GWP) is moving away from asking which refrigerant will be the one-size-fits-all solution, towards which low-GWP refrigerant is best suited to each specific application. Presentations from component manufacturers focussed on the required changes for compressors and heat exchangers for specific refrigerants and their ideal applications: water for high temperature, large capacity industrial heat pumps, R32 and propane for domestic applications, and CO2 for heat pump chillers.
This to me is a sign that low GWP solutions are already available for a range of heat pump applications and the associated technical changes are well understood – but that a future with an increased range of refrigerants and increasingly specialised applications could see development costs rise for heat pump manufacturers.
To summarise, the European Heat Pump Summit has further cemented my belief that heat pump technology is technically mature enough to be at the forefront of the transition to new heat. There is a heat pump for every application, but the step-change in their deployment will depend on how quickly suppliers can figure out how best to integrate them within the wider energy system.