22 February 2023
Today the Australian Alliance for Energy Productivity and the Energy Efficiency Council are joining forces to release a new report – Harnessing heat pumps for net zero: The role of heat pumps in saving energy and cutting emissions.
This research spotlights the critical role of heat pumps in the energy transition, and not a moment too soon.
Australia has recently legislated an emissions reduction commitment – 43 per cent reduction on 2005 levels by 2030. This report finds that heat pumps can play a crucial role in this effort, driving down emissions, and improving energy affordability.
The opportunity for heat pumps, coupled with process optimisation and renewables, to help decarbonise key industrial subsectors is large; this report finds that emissions reductions of 391 Mt CO2-e in industrial processes are possible to 2050. The evidence that electrification is the fastest, least-cost pathway to net zero in residential and commercial buildings is also very strong, and this report finds that in Australia, heat pumps can achieve emissions reductions of 260 Mt CO2-e in residential buildings, and 96 Mt CO2-e in commercial buildings between 2020 and 2050. The combined emissions reduction potential in these sectors is equivalent to about one and a half years of Australia’s total emissions.
Indeed, across all sectors examined, this report finds that heat pumps can achieve potential cumulative energy savings of up to 14,391 PJ to 2050, with the added benefit of reducing exposure to volatile global gas markets. Importantly, heat pumps can take advantage of Australia’s decarbonising grid by using energy when renewable generation is plentiful, ensuring we electrify intelligently and only pay for the generation, network and storage infrastructure that we actually need.
For the first time, this report gives us some sense of the size of the prize, but realising it will require sustained effort, with a focus on policy and deployment.
We are starting from a low base, with one exception: reverse cycle air conditioners are very common in Australian households. However, use of heat pumps for hot water, space heating and low temperature process heat is lagging other parts of the world. Further, deploying mature heat pump technologies now will mean we are well placed to adopt emerging technologies as they become available, including higher temperature applications in industry.
Time is of the essence – focusing on deploying heat pumps in the three sectors examined in this report by 2030 will help us quickly develop the skills and supply chains we need, maximise cumulative emissions reductions to 2050, and ensure heat pumps play their part in delivering a prosperous, net zero Australia.