Renewable heating and cooling in Spain: ¿Qué nos depara el futuro? 

29 Nov 2023

All the EU member states need to help the bloc reach its climate and energy targets and set out how they will do so. A member state of the European Union since 1986, Spain is no exception. According to the country’s National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP) renewables will reach 48% of the final energy mix by 2030. Last year, clean energy accounted for 42% of the total energy consumed.  

While Spain is making progress in the clean energy transition, what are the challenges ahead?  

To answer this question, the European Technology and Innovation Platform on Renewable Heating and Cooling (RHC-ETIP) hosted a webinar titled “Spanish Perspectives on the Renewable Heating and Cooling Market”, featuring a rich panel of researchers and industry experts from Spain.  

Funded by the EU, the RHC-ETIP platform aims to showcase the social, economic and environmental benefits of renewable heating and cooling, while establishing strategic research and innovation agendas with other regional and national platforms.  

The online event was kicked off by Marta San Román, Director General of AFEC – the Spanish Heat Pump and HVAC manufacturers Association – who gave insights into Spain’s heat pump market.  

Although 2022 heat pump sales grew by 30% over the previous year, the market is affected by a shortage of skilled workers, in a country in which heat pumps are being increasingly installed for cooling purposes as heatwaves are becoming more extreme and frequent, warned San Román. 

Yet, San Román is optimistic: “Heat pump technology shows the highest ‘more-for-less’, with proven records of reliable and good performance for heating below -10ºC and cooling above 40ºC. A faster heat pump rollout will create over 250.000 jobs in Spain and will reduce our dependence on gas” she commented.  

The manufacturers’ perspective is voiced by Enrique Vilamitjana, Managing Director at Panasonic Heating, Ventilation and Air-Conditioning Europe.  

Leading heat pump producers, including Panasonic, have announced investments of over €4 billion to expand manufacturing capacity in the EU, explained Vilamitjana.  

To reach the REPowerEU target – which means around 60 million heat pumps installed in the continent according to EHPA’s extrapolation – however, the whole value chain, from component production to installation capacity – must be aligned to meet final customer demand, he continued.  

While heat pump sales have dropped in the first months of 2023 in some EU countries, there are two actions to take to keep the technology in demand, according to Vilamitjana: lower the electricity-gas price ratio and increase trust in heat pumps among consumers. In fact, as previously highlighted by EHPA, ensuring electricity prices are no more than double the price of gas is crucial to help consumers save on heat pumps’ operational costs.  

Heat pump roll-out is now happening at a slower pace, while the industry is heavily investing in Europe. How can we work together to overcome the current slowdown? Consumers need clearer information: informed consumers are the best weapon we can deploy to strengthen our heat pump market” he concluded.  

Vilamitjana was followed by Jose Luis Corrales Ciganda, Senior Researcher at Tecnalia Research and Innovation, offering the R&I perspective.  

According to Corrales Ciganda, Spain’s climate zones (Mediterranean, continental and Atlantic) allow for the development of three different and innovative heat pump rollout strategies.  

Mediterranean regions, with their warm climate, can benefit from a larger deployment of air-source heat pumps and energy communities, whereas in internal regions, the combination of air with ground-source heat pumps would be optimal for new buildings in continental climates. Finally, equipping multifamily buildings with cascading heat pumps could be a valid option for Northern Spain’s Atlantic climate.  

The smart selection, combination and integration of air source and water source heat pumps can be the key to the success of this technology,” said Corrales Ciganda.  

The second half of the webinar explored the role of heat pumps in solar-thermal (harvesting energy from the sun through solar panels) and geothermal (harvesting energy from the ground) energy generation as well as in waste heat recovery, with case studies from Spanish regions and cities.  

Oleguer Fuertes, Product Manager at BDR Thermea Group commented: “We are struggling with a climate, financial and social crisis. Solar-thermal is a reliable, safe, and quick-to-deploy heat pump and solar technologies together. Among other renewables, it contributes energy independence from external geopolitical factors and the decarbonisation of buildings”.  

He was echoed by Javier F. Urchueguía Schölzel, Physics Professor at the Polytechnic University of Valencia (UPV), who added: “Shallow geothermal energy in Spain is a market with great potential as research shows. The aspects that need to be improved?  Awareness and public recognition, training of critical stakeholders and financial support schemes”.  

Lastly, David Tomas Sanchez Martinez, Professor in Energy Engineering at the University of Seville concluded: Unused thermal energy in the industry is the elephant in the room of the energy transition. Industries produce waste heat in a decentralised manner throughout Europe: that’s untapped energy that can be reused to avoid emissions and increase efficiency”. 

Watch the full recording here and discover real-life examples of heat pump deployment in Spain. You can download the slides here

This webinar is the first of a series of roundtables exploring the development of clean heating and cooling in different EU countries.  

Find out more: https://www.rhc-platform.org/  

Cover Photo: Stefan Kunze on Unsplash

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