Put EU 2040 climate goal into practice with heat pumps 

06 Feb 2024

Photo: Rototec
Photo: Rototec

The European Commission presented today the EU’s climate target plan for 2040, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 90% on 1990 levels. While this level keeps the EU on track for net zero emissions by 2050, the pivotal role of heat pumps in decarbonising heating and cooling in buildings and industry is sidelined. 

The EU ‘communication’ – meaning it is not at this point a legislative proposal –  recognises electrification as the main driver of the energy transition, but barely refers to the equally crucial need to move away from fossil fuels. What’s more, heat pumps – an electric, renewable heating and cooling technology – feature in the accompanying impact assessment, only get a few mentions in the topline communication.   This is despite the key role of heat pumps in the EU’s plan to increase energy independence (REPowerEU) and its strategy for boosting net zero industries (the Net Zero Industry Act).  

“Setting lofty targets but sidelining a crucial technology to reach them is like hiking up a mountain with no equipment”, commented Jozefien Vanbecelaere, head of EU affairs at the European Heat Pump Association. “After the postponement of the expected Heat Pump Action Plan, this comes as another blow to a net zero industry that is investing massively in Europe and has huge growth potential.” 

The diminished role of heat pumps in the communication comes alongside the launch of an Industrial Alliance to accelerate the deployment of small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs) and a communication on industrial carbon management . These technologies are not yet ready to deliver in the market. Heat pumps on the other hand are a mature technology that contribute to a long list of the aspects crucial to achieve our 2040 targets: energy efficiency (heat pumps are up to five times more efficient that fossil fuel boilers); electrification; grids (heat pumps offer flexibility); energy system integration (aggregated flexibility from smaller HPs and industrial heat pumps that recover waste heat ); fossil fuel phase out and industry decarbonisation with industrial heat pumps.  

Despite the many benefits, the EU Commission informed EHPA, in a surprise move in December, that it was postponing the publication of the EU Heat Pump Action Plan until after the European elections. This prompted 20 NGOs, think tanks and industry associations as well as 60+ CEOs and industry leaders to call for its swift release to provide the policy clarity needed to boost flagging heat pump sales. 

“An energy transition in heating is essential to achieve Europe’s ambitious targets but an energy transition in heating without heat pumps will be impossible. This needs to be remembered in the context of setting a higher greenhouse gas emission reduction target – today’s 2040 plan needs to be connected to action on the ground”, added Vanbecelaere.  

Today’s 2040 communication will be taken up by the next European Commission, which takes office later this year.  

Contact:
Sarah Azau
Head of Communications
sarah.azau@ehpa.org
Tel: +32 473 57 31 37

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