Digitalisation and heat pumps – next step towards fossil free energy systems

This article summarises an overview of the digitalisation in the heating and cooling sector, in particular in building applications, based on a white paper from European Heat Pump Association, EHPA.

Digitalisation and heat pumps in combination can help cities in the development of emission free energy systems. European Heat Pump Association, EHPA has presented a review of the digitalisation in the heating and cooling sector, in particular in building applications and the needs for its’ further development.

In the white paper “A digital revolution in the built environment? Flexibility, Comfort and new business models for heat pumps” EHPA provides an overview of the emergence of digitalisation in the heating and cooling sector, in particular in building applications. It elaborates on the consequences of this trend for the heat pump industry including improved system reliability, consumer comfort and business opportunities.

Demo tests


The paper also describes demo tests made by the Horizon 2020 Heat4Cool project. Here an energy management system that co-optimizes energy consumption and user comfort was developed. Various diverse technologies came together in this project: solar driven adsorption heat pumps, photovoltaic assisted DC heat pumps, phase-change-material heat and cold storage systems, sewage water energy recovery and intelligent demand energy management via the SCI-BEMS.

The use of heat pump-based systems could increase efficiency whilst closely catering to the comfort requirements of its users, according to EHPA. Overall reduction in demand, as well as the ability to shift demand from times of shortage of electricity to times of abundance (Demand side flexibility) allows for the cost optimisation and brings economic benefits, as well as optimal use of fluctuating energy generation (i.e., wind, solar) and storage (thermal, electrical). It is expected that the cost reduction potential of heat pump operations under market conditions that reward flexibility will lead to new business models and may attract new actors to the heating and cooling sector.

Financing and current limitations


The major European investments in the area are the digital European Programme, Horizon Europe where digitalisation is part of the second pillar together with the Multi Financial Framework (2021-2027).

Currently market uptake and further development of integrated solutions is limited by distorted prices for energy.

Using fossil energy in a rather inefficient way is still comparatively cheap.
Flexibility is rarely given a value.
Connecting components of a smart building is a challenge to the end user due to a lack of standardised solutions.
On a similar note, some of the challenges surrounding the digitalisation of the heat pump industry could and must be solved on a legislative level. Issues such as data protection and cyber security can only be decided in such a way, and by doing so would massively increase the uptake of digital solutions and encourage innovation. In order to accelerate technological advancement policy makers, need to address the points raised above. A market environment conducive to innovation and growth should be a priority.

Digitalisation of heating and cooling will make the local benefits of heat pump technologies accessible and relevant to the building. Developing this field further is not only exciting, but also vital for an emission free Europe – well before 2050.


References

Here you find the whole white paper “A digital revolution in the built environment? Flexibility, Comfort and new business models for heat pumps” written by EHPA and supported by project Heat4Cool (Horizon 2020).

A digital revolution in the built environment? Flexibility, Comfort and new business models for heat pumps (2021)

 

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