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Uptake of heat pumps key to meeting target on renewable energy

A government commissioned report has forecast a massive expansion in the heat pump market by 2020

A report by AEA/NEAR titled The UK Supply Curve for Renewable Heat is set to play a key role in developing future policy, according to the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s website and feedback is being invited from industry.

It reviews the opportunities and prospects for renewable heat in the UK and its potential contribution to the UK’s 15 per cent renewable energy target.

The key conclusions of the report are:

  • Biomass boilers and heat pumps are expected to be the most significant contributors to renewable heat while solar thermal could provide additional output although at a “substantially higher” cost.
  • The commercial/public sector are likely to offer the lowest cost opportunities for renewable heat projects. Depending on the desired contribution of renewable heat to the UK’s overall renewable energy target, the availability of lower cost opportunities in these sectors could mean that a much smaller number of higher cost domestic installations of renewable heat technologies would be required.
  • There are significant uncertainties associated with high levels of renewable heat deployment. These depend heavily on the rate at which UK supply capacity can grow, which could limit significantly the level of renewable heat achievable up to 2020.
  • The report said cost and technological factors might change, but its current analysis of measures needed to hit the 2020 target would include 448,000 biomass boilers, 325,000 air source heat pumps (ASHPs), and 187,000 groundsource heat pumps (GSHPs) in the domestic sector and 4,000 non-domestic biomass boilers, 44,000 GSHPs and 37,000 ASHPs in the non-domestic sector.

The report says its conclusions differ from previous reviews in several ways. These are:

  • The overall contribution from biomass boilers is similar, but in the new results much more heavily weighted towards the non-domestic applications.
  • Heat pumps contribute a substantially larger share of output, with more than twice the potential indicated in the previous analysis.
  • Biomass district heating has a reduced role, with around one-fifth of the potential that it had in the previous results.
  • The expansion of non-domestic biomass and heat pumps means that solar thermal does not form part of the new technology mix, whereas it accounted for as much as 15 per cent of the heat output in the previous results.
  • The results are much more weighted towards the non-domestic sector, which accounts for three-quarters of output in the above results, but only 40 per cent in previous analyses.