Heat Pump Hype with Thomas Nowak

Thomas Nowak talks about heat pumps on EnvironMental Podcast with Dandelion

“If we electrify heating, we save about 50% of energy immediately. Immediately and without a lot of additional effort.”

Thomas Nowak on transitioning to heat pumps for heating our buildings

In this episode of EnvironMental with Dandelion, we had the pleasure of diving deep into the world of heat pumps with none other than Thomas Nowak, the Secretary General of the European Heat Pump Association!

Thomas has been a heat pump enthusiast for more than 20 years! He told us that they are crucial for the transition to a sustainable future, and after this conversation, we agree!

What is a Heat Pump?

“Would your audience be surprised if I said that all of you have a heat pump already?”

Thomas

That’s right – this technology is anything but new. In fact, it’s over 100 years old. Heat pumps operate with almost the same technology as your refrigerator!

The difference is instead of expelling the heat, a heat pump utilizes it to warm our living spaces. By absorbing heat from the air, ground, or water, they can provide extremely efficient heating, cooling, and hot water.

Thomas explained that heat pumps are not just a piece of equipment. They’re a cornerstone in the quest for energy efficiency and a sustainable future. Running your heat pump is typically equivalent to running two hair dryers! That’s a big side step from the oil and gas most of us are using to heat our houses now.

Why are They an Important Part of the Transition to Sustainability?

The role of heat pumps in moving away from fossil energy in heating and cooling cannot be overstated. This is because heating and cooling are critical components of society’s overall energy shift away from fossil fuels. 

“You can seriously say that if we don’t manage the energy transition in heating, then the whole energy transition of our society is not working… Most buildings, I think at least 60% of all the buildings, we can replace the oil and gas boiler immediately. Then maybe another 10-20% you just have to do some small things – replace some radiators, tighten the windows so that you don’t have drafts, things like that that are not deep renovation. And then of course there are also some buildings, maybe 30%, that need deep renovation.”

Thomas Nowak

Thomas told us that transitioning to heat pumps can immediately reduce the world’s carbon emissions by up to a quarter! So why aren’t they being adopted immediately?

We discussed the hurdles and prospects of heat pumps within the larger framework of global energy policies.

Heat Pump Economics

An essential part of our conversation revolved around the economic aspects of adopting heat pumps. Aub speaks from experience to say that the initial adoption of the heat pump is pretty expensive. That would be fine, but one of the big issues is that after that initial investment, there is still a disparity between electricity and gas prices. In a lot of countries, electricity is taxed at a much higher rate than oil and gas.

“A friend of mine, a good colleague, Dave Pearson from Star Energy, he always says, ‘you cannot ask the kids to eat the salad and then leave the cookie jar open on the table.’ And that’s exactly what we are doing as society, right? We are taxing the salad and we are making the sweets too cheap.”

Thomas Nowak

If we want to make a true, big difference, we’ve got to create consumer demand. That means offering end-user financing and incentives to facilitate the energy transition right away. This is something the Heat Pump Association is very focused on.

The Role of the Heat Pump Association

Aside from pushing to address the relative price between electricity and gas, Thomas shared the ambitious objectives of the European Heat Pump Association. They strive for policy reforms that acknowledge heat pumps as an essential technology for a carbon-neutral future and encourage investments to expedite the uptake of heat pumps.

The European Heat Pump Association is also focused on working with the European Commission to take a step away from “technology neutrality” and replace it with “technology clarity” in the sustainability movement. This means understanding the technology that is most likely to have the biggest impact on the energy transition and helping pave the way for its adoption. In the case of heat pumps, we’re talking about preparing the grid for electrification.

Electrification is a big topic on its own. It’s no secret that our electricity grids can’t currently stand an immediate transition to electrification. We want to move away from fossil oil and gas, but to do that, we need to expand grid capacity. The Heat Pump Association is part of this conversation because not only are heat pumps extremely efficient, “heat pumps can run in times of surplus and be switched off in times of scarcity.” (Thomas Nowak)

Connect with Thomas and the Heat Pump Association

The insights from this episode of the Environmental Podcast underscore the critical role of heat pumps in our journey towards a more sustainable future. The technology not only offers a path to reduce our carbon footprint but also presents economic opportunities and challenges that we must navigate thoughtfully.

If you want to talk to Thomas about Heat Pumps or follow him as he moves to his new role, you can find him on LinkedIn here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/thomasnowakeu/

Here’s where you can find the European Heat Pump Association: https://www.ehpa.org/

Plus follow them on LinkedIn to keep up with all the Heat Pump Hype: https://www.linkedin.com/company/ehpa/

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