Heat pump capacity growth in buildings by country/region in the STEPS and APS scenarios by 2030, compared to 2021. Image credit: IEA

Heat pump capacity growth in buildings by country/region in the STEPS and APS scenarios by 2030, compared to 2021. Image credit: IEA

Globally, a report to the International Energy Agency (IEA) notes that subsidies for heat pumps are now available in more than 30 countries, covering around 70% of worldwide space heating demand in residential buildings.

Also Read: Part 1

Heat pumps will provide one-fifth of the world’s heating needs by the end of the decade if nations follow through on their plans. Heat pumps have a combined capacity of more than 1 000 gigawatts (GW) today. By 2030, the IEA says the STEPS would see this double to 2 100GW and APS would result in 2 600GW being deployed. The large increase in STEPS is attributed to significant policy interventions such as the Inflation Reduction Act in the US.

This increase by heat pumps to encompass around one-fifth of heating needs in the APS can be seen in the chart below. It also demonstrates the significant role that heat-pump market expansion in China is expected to have over the coming decade. In an additional scenario that is consistent with the Paris Agreement target of limiting global warming to 1.5C (NZE), heat pump sales accelerate even faster and make up one-quarter of heating demand by 2030.

The report emphasises the potential for heat pumps to quickly cut the world’s dependence on gas and other fossil fuels. As it stands, more than one-sixth of global gas use is for keeping buildings warm. In the EU, which is currently trying to wean itself off Russian gas, this figure is one-third. To cut out Russian imports before 2030 as part of the REPowerEU plan, the APS suggests the number of heat pumps in the EU needs to triple to reach 45 million units.

With annual heat pump sales set to approach seven million by 2030 in this scenario, in line with REPowerEU, gas consumption in the bloc’s buildings would be cut by 21 billion cubic metres (bcm) by 2030. The IEA points out that this is roughly equal to 15% of Russian imports into the EU in 2021, before the bloc took steps to reduce its fossil fuel ties with Moscow.

Other nations, such as Japan and South Korea, are also heavily reliant on imported fossil fuels. A large-scale switch to heat pumps in the APS would boost energy security by significantly cutting the need for fossil fuel imports.

Overall, in the APS, global gas use in buildings drops by 21% by 2030, saving 160bcm – more than the combined annual output of the UK and Norway in 2021. This reduction by 2030 is more than three times larger than seen in STEPS.

There is also a reduction in the use of oil and coal, the latter of which is still employed for heating in some nations such as China and Poland. The use of these fuels for space and water heating falls by 29% in the APS.

For both gas and fossil fuels more broadly, roughly half of the reduction in use by 2030 is attributed to heat pumps. The remainder comes from improvements to building insulation.

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