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Air source heat pumps to remain ‘renewables’

The EU is not seeking to relegate air source heat pumps (ASHPs) to ‘energy-efficiency instrument’ status but is working with experts to develop criteria enabling the technology to retain its renewable energy source status.

The clarification was issued by Fiona Hall, the Liberal Democrat MEP sitting on the EU Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, debating the merits of more than 1,000 amendments to the Renewable Energy Sources Directive.

One of the many amendments relating to ASHPs states: “Heat pumps using ambient heat from the air often require the use of significant amounts of conventional energy. Therefore ASHPs should not be taken into account for the purpose of measuring compliance with the targets established by this directive.”

The heat pump industry fears the technology could be marginalised should the declassification of ASHPs as a recognised renewable technology receive approval. The industry believes this is likely because Fiona Hall – who was instrumental in persuading the EU to impose a ban on patio heaters – tabled the amendment.

But, speaking to H&V News ahead of the September 3 and 11 meetings in Brussels to discuss the issue, Ms Hall said the committee was “now on course to develop a sensible solution to it”.

“There were a number of anxieties with regards to ASHPs, supported by research, which suggested that some ASHPs were not sufficiently energy efficient in comparison with ground source heat pumps. However, we have noted industry comments and are holding a workshop with technical experts from related areas in the industry.

“My expectation is following this meeting a definition for ASHPs will emerge that will be satisfactory for most people. I also expect criteria to emerge that will enable ASHPs not to be deleted from the list of renewable technologies.”

She added: “The industry has been concerned with the long-term future of the technology since the amendments were tabled but I believe that the definitions that emerge will provide the industry with the assurance it is seeking.”

Will Wachtmeister, policy officer with Micropower Europe, said: “This is a sensible approach and along the lines of one that we have been advocating. We understand the commission’s position that in order for a product to be defined as a renewable source it must produce meaningful amounts of energy and be meaningful in its carbon emissions reductions.

“But we believe the way to achieve this is not by excluding products but by raising the bar for that product. We would very much welcome a resolution from Brussels that reflects that.”

Tony Bowen, president of the Heat Pump Association, said: “This is a sensible, helpful approach and a change in Fiona Hall’s original position, which was to exclude ASHPs from the genuine renewable products and to treat the technology in another way.

“Air and ground source heat pumps are likely to become one of the major vehicles for producing renewable heat in the future.

“EU governments must produce significant amounts of energy from renewable sources by 2020.

“We are on the brink of a major energy revolution and to reach our target we must get the details right.”