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How Heat Pump Sales Are Starting To Take Off Around The World

MARCH 6,  2022

Heat pumps are seen as a crucial solution for reducing carbon emissions in building heating worldwide. Despite low sales, there has been double-digit growth in the market in 2021 in several countries. Heat pumps are an efficient low-carbon technology that could potentially reduce carbon emissions on a large scale. However, further government action may be necessary for them to meet the levels required for global net-zero by 2050.

Published by

Carbon Grief

Experts see heat pumps as one of the main solutions for tackling the carbon emissions associated with keeping buildings warm, both in the UK and internationally. Yet sales of the technology, often likened to a fridge running in reverse, have remained stubbornly low in many countries.


The latest figures, collated in this article for Carbon Brief, show the tides beginning to turn, with sales in 2021 seeing double-digit growth in countries ranging from Austria to China.

While rapid growth in the market seems assured, heat pumps might still fall short of the levels required for a global pathway to net zero by 2050, without further government action.

Highly efficient

Heat pumps are a low-carbon heating technology with the potential to deliver large-scale reductions in carbon emissions from building heat. 

They use electricity to move heat from ambient outside air, water or soil to a building’s interior and to heat water. This process is highly efficient, with heat pumps delivering three to four units of heat for each unit of electricity needed to run them.

When the electricity used to drive a heat pump is produced from low-carbon sources, all this heat is also low-carbon. It is this simple capacity to deliver heat very efficiently and cleanly that makes heat pumps a key technology in most pathways to net zero.

The International Energy Agency’s (IEA) pathway to net zero by 2050, for example, includes 1.8bn heat pumps in buildings in 2050 providing 55% of energy demand for heating globally. This compares with just 180m units installed today, providing 7% of the heating.

Similarly in the UK, the most cost-effective Climate Change Committee (CCC) “balanced” pathway to net zero sees the majority of homes being heated with heat pumps by 2050.

Until recently, however, the heat pump market has been growing far more slowly than required in the IEA or CCC scenarios. This is evident from the IEA’s global heat pump stock figures in the chart below, which shows that at current trends only 253m heat pumps would be installed globally by 2030, compared with the 600m units needed by that year in the IEA’s net-zero scenario – a shortfall of 58%.

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