Our research on heat pump installations in Europe provides learning opportunities for the UK to increase adoption and meet government targets.

Heat pumps have a crucial role to play in reducing carbon emissions from our homes and they are taking off in many countries in Europe. But the growth in heat pumps is not the same everywhere. In some regions,such as in Scandinavia, heat pumps for home heating have been well-established for over a decade. However, in other countries such as Spain, Italy and France heat pumps are widely used for cooling only, with homes using other heat sources during the winter. Some countries have recently seen strong growth in heat pump sales while others, including the UK, have been much slower at adopting this technology.

The UK is widely acknowledged to be at the back of the queue on heat pump uptake, with lower rates of installations per household than almost every other country in Europe. Out of 17 European countries examined in 2021, the UK had the slowest rate of heat pump installation

In 2021, the UK installed approximately 43,000 heat pumps which translates to around 0.15% of the housing stock. This seems to have increased in 2022 to around 60,000 heat pumps installed but is still a long way behind most targets. The UK Government has set a target of installing 600,000 heat pumps per year by 2028, while the Climate Change Committee recommends 1 million heat pumps should be fit annually by 2030. This translates to installing a heat pump in 2.16% of homes every year by 2028, or 3.56% of homes by 2030, well over 10 times the current rate. 

To understand how the UK could catch up on its heat pump goals, we have examined heat pump uptake in 17 European countries from 2011 to 2021. Our research shows that countries perform differently on heat pump installations but there are common factors that the UK can learn from.

A note on the data

This report primarily uses data on heat pumps from EurObserv’er for the years between 2011 and 2021. The majority of the heat pumps in this dataset are air-to-air heat pumps, many of which are used for cooling rather than heating as their primary functions, often alongside other heat sources in the home. Other sources of heat pump data, most notably the European Heat Pump Association, exclude many air-to-air heat pumps from their figures for this reason. We have included all air-to-air heat pumps in our analysis on the basis that they can provide heating, but have separated them from air-to-water and other kinds of heat pumps in our charts and analysis. For further details on the data we’ve used, see Annex 1 in the appendices.

Authors

Dimitris Sarsentis

Dimitris Sarsentis

Dimitris Sarsentis

Analyst, sustainable future mission

Dimitris joined Nesta’s sustainable future mission as an analyst after graduating from his MSc.

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Lauren Orso

Lauren Orso

Lauren Orso

Data Journalist

Lauren is a data journalist who researches, produces, and publishes data stories.

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