✔ Norway is winning the race, with one heat pump for every four people
✔ There are 14.84 million heat pumps in Europe
✔ That number has grown by 26% in the past two years
Heat pumps are revolutionising domestic heating all over the world.
Not only do these renewable machines warm your home with heat from natural sources like the air and ground, they also do so with an efficiency level four times higher than that of a gas boiler – saving the planet and your wallet.
Heat pumps are the future of domestic heating systems, which the UK government has acknowledged with a target of 600,000 annual installations by 2028, and a ban on new gas boiler sales from 2035 – though it’s miles off that target, as we’ve concluded below.
Governments all over Europe have long been committed to heat pumps, preventing millions of tonnes of emissions and paving the way for 40% of all residential buildings to be heated by electricity by 2030 (European Heat Pump Association, 2021).
There are now 14.84 million heat pumps in Europe – and these are the nations leading the way.
Heat pumps per 100,000 people
24,675 heat pumps per 100,000 people
Wait, you mean there’s one heat pump for every four people?
What, like it’s hard?
It certainly hasn’t been difficult for Norway, where long-standing government subsidies of at least £1,100 (with more for larger properties) have encouraged homeowners to dispense with fossil fuels.
The drive to encourage heat pump installations has been so successful that in 2020, Norway was able to ban oil heating entirely.
And since Norway produces nearly 100% renewable electricity, largely thanks to its hydropower plants, the country’s 1.33 million heat pumps are truly green.
19,510 per 100,000 people
Heat pumps are the default choice for new Swedish homes, which is part of the reason why the country has consistently reached 100,000 heat pump installations per year for the past decade.
This has helped push fossil fuels to the margins. When it comes to domestic heating, these polluting sources have long made up less than 10% of Sweden’s energy mix.
More than half of Sweden’s electricity is supplied by renewable sources like hydropower, wind power, and biofuels, which goes directly into powering the nation’s two million heat pumps.
18,314 per 100,000 people
Heat pumps are massively popular across Scandinavia, and Finland is no different.
In 2020, the country installed more than 100,000 heat pumps for the first time (the previous record was 76,000), and simultaneously passed the one million heat pump landmark.
This has helped Finland’s heat pumps to save two million tonnes of greenhouse gases, which is no mean feat considering the nation’s overall emissions are 48 million tonnes.
70% of small, new-build households now choose to install a heat pump, which shows that the future is bright for heat pumps in Finland.
14,726 per 100,000 people
196,000 heat pumps may not sound like much, but for Estonia, it’s a huge number.
The country has been impressively consistent in its growth, with 16,000 or 17,000 heat pumps installed in each of the past seven years.
To put that in context for this small Baltic nation of 1.3 million people, the 17,000 units bought in 2020 represented a 9.5% increase on its total stock of heat pumps.
It doesn’t hurt that consumers pay an average of just 11.3p per kWh for electricity – compared to the UK’s 16.3p price level.
7,549 per 100,000 people
Government initiatives have helped stoke this country’s enthusiasm for heat pumps.
Since 2017, Denmark has incentivised homeowners to get rid of their oil boilers in favour of a heavily discounted heat pump – and in 2020, the government extended this offer to households with a gas boiler.
Companies are also getting on board, thanks partly to a 2021 grant that covers 15% of the cost of a business’s installation, up to five million krone (£570,000).
European Heat Pump Association secretary general Thomas Nowak explained the popularity of heat pumps in northern European nations was largely down to a level playing field.
“The lack of gas sources in Nordic countries and policymakers’ lack of options to keep gas artificially cheap brings heat pumps into a direct comparison with electric heating, biomass and district heating,” he told Energy Monitor.
“There is also a higher acceptance level [in Nordic countries] for using electricity as an energy carrier for heating. In Germany, for example, that was not accepted for a long time”.
4,586 per 100,000 people
France’s total of 3.1 million heat pumps is unmatched in Europe – and the country is only accelerating in this area.
It’s increased its heat pump total by 34% over the past two years – the most of any European country with a million units or more.
This continued rise has been partly prompted by 2012 eco-friendly building regulations that have created a situation in which 40% of new buildings now opt for a heat pump.
The heat pump industry sustains 20,000 jobs, and saved a massive 12.3 million tonnes of greenhouse gases in 2020.
4,110 per 100,000 people
40% of all heating systems sold in Switzerland are heat pumps – and for new single-family homes, this figure rises to a dominant 90%.
Heat pumps have been growing in popularity for more than a decade, but 2020 was a banner year, as the country saw a record 36,000 installations.
The responsibility for this lies with many of Switzerland’s regions (known as cantons), whose governments have introduced regulations that promote heat pumps as the best heating option for homeowners.
How many heat pumps has the UK installed?
The UK has installed 280,000 heat pumps, which places it 11th out of the 21 European countries we’ve considered.
But that’s not the whole story. The UK has the third-largest population in Europe, after Germany and France, and is therefore lagging far behind in terms of heat pumps per person.
In fact, with a tiny 412 heat pumps per 100,000 people, the UK ranks 20th out of 21 nations, above only Hungary.
The European average is 3,068 heat pumps per 100,000 people. The UK would need 7.4 times more units to meet this level – a total of 2.1 million heat pumps.
While this sounds like a big ask, it’s completely reasonable. France, which has practically the same population and economic standing as the UK, has a stock of 3.1 million heat pumps.
Norway, a country of just 5.4 million people, currently contains 1.3 million heat pumps.
On the other hand, the UK has fewer heat pumps per person than Slovakia, Lithuania, and Estonia – not to mention every other European nation, apart from Hungary. That’s appalling.
Will the UK install more heat pumps?
Yes, absolutely. The UK has been installing an increasing number of heat pumps each year since 2017, including a record 35,000 units in 2019 – and that number is set to rise rapidly.
The government wants to reach 600,000 installations per year by 2028, which is why the Boiler Upgrade Scheme will be in place from March 2022 to March 2025.
This government initiative will reduce the cost of air source heat pumps by £5,000, and take £6,000 off the price of ground source heat pumps.
In both cases, this equates to about a 50% discount.
There’s limited funding available, so the scheme is only able to provide grants for 90,000 homeowners over its three-year span, but this should still boost numbers somewhat.