Large heat pumps could meet Germany's heating needs one and a half times over

A study prepared by German thinktank Agora Energiewende in cooperation with the Fraunhofer Institute for Energy Infrastructures and Geothermal Energy (Fraunhofer IEG) on the roll-out of large heat pumps in Germany concludes that heat pumps could cover the entire German heat demand for applications up to 200 degrees Celsius. This sector accounts for three quarters of the country’s natural gas consumption and more than a quarter of CO2 emissions.
According to the study, demand amounts to a good 1,000 terawatt hours (TWh) annually, while the potential available from heat sources such as near-surface and deep geothermal energy, lake and river water, industrial waste heat, wastewater, coal mines, and data centers, i.e., excluding the use of ambient air, is around 1,500 TWh. »With large heat pumps, these heat sources can be used on a large scale for district heating and in industry,« says Simon Müller, director for Germany at Agora Energiewende. Currently, however, only 60 megawatts of large heat pumps are installed throughout Germany. To cover around 70 percent of the district heating demand by 2045, an average of four gigawatts of capacity would have to be added each year.
According to the study, whether large heat pumps are used successfully in a country depends on various factors, which do not include climatic conditions or the duration of the heating period – as shown by Norway and Sweden, where large heat pumps account for around 13 and more than eight percent, respectively, of district heating supply. What is important, on the other hand, is the ratio of the purchase costs for electricity to those for gas, a sufficiently high CO2 price and »the emphatic will of politics, business and society« to transform the energy supply.

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