Padd Energy

Decarbonising Heat: The role of heat pumps in achieving Net Zero

What are heat pumps and why do they matter?

“Like a fridge, but in reverse”……at their most basic level heat pumps are based on a simple concept: taking in heat at one temperature and releasing it at a higher temperature, using a small amount of energy (electricity) to power the process. So instead of removing heat from a refrigerator and rejecting it out the back, the heat pump harnesses heat from a source (be it water/ ground/ air/ other) and then supplies useful heat where it is required – whether that be a house, an office, an industrial application or another end use. It’s that simple and we’ll leave the complicated thermodynamics lesson for another article!

Heat pumps are not a new technology, with Lord Kelvin predicting their use as far back as the 19th century and the first direct exchange heat pump built in the 1940’s. Millions of units are already installed worldwide and the deployment will only increase as natural gas is largely phased out.

As we continue our journey towards Net Zero emissions, the fuel sources we use will drive decarbonisation. Where natural gas was once predominant (and the humble gas boiler), the future is likely to be mixture of electrification, through technologies such as heat pumps, and hydrogen fuel. Exactly what this mix will be is unclear, but there’s a growing consensus hydrogen should be prioritised for heavy transport and higher temperature industrial processes, whereas heat pumps will be the answer for many domestic and commercial settings. Solutions such as district heating will also play a key role – and heat pumps can be the centralised generation technology that supplies heat to these networks.

How PADD Energy is helping deliver heat pump projects

PADD Energy has extensive experience with heat pumps – ranging from due diligence of existing assets, through to feasibility and business case development. Our capability includes air source, water source (e.g. rivers), ground source and also waste heat recovery from sources such as the sewer network. Much of the technical challenge in deploying heat pumps in existing assets relates to achieving economic levels of efficiency. This involves optimising both the source temperature of the heat resources, and the operating conditions of the end heat uses.

More recently, as the green recovery gathers pace, we are delivering detailed design of heat pump systems across a range of sectors. Some of these projects are being funded through the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme (PSDS) administered by Salix for public sector organisations.

Case Study: Hospital Heat Pump Retrofit

PADD Energy is working with a leading UK Design & Build contractor to deliver new air and water source heat pumps at two major Hospital campus sites in England.

The projects have received PSDS funding and will see heat pumps retrofitted into the existing heating and hot water systems to displace natural gas consumption and therefore reduce carbon emissions.

Both projects will achieve a carbon abatement cost of less than £500 CAPEX per tonne of CO2. Our team of highly skilled engineers have produced RIBA Stage 2 and 3 design packages, including energy modelling, site surveys, liaison with the supply chain and cost plans.

Through our work on this project and other similar schemes, we know there are key design factors that are critical to the success of the heat pump system and ongoing operation of the site. This includes:

• Modelling and designing the heat pumps on a realistic seasonal coefficient of performance (sCoP) across the heating season
• Overcoming the sites’ acoustic and planning challenges
• Understanding the interaction of temperatures between the existing building heating circuits and the new heat pump outputs
• Making cost effective interventions to existing circuits to maximise efficiency
• Maintaining suitable levels of overall heat supply resilience for the buildings
• Employing thermal storage to improve performance and reduce costs by operating the heat pump to align with periods of lower electricity tariffs
• Facilitating integration to cooling circuits to increase overall seasonal performance.


The future of heat pumps and Net Zero transition

Under the Future Homes Standard, the UK Government has proposed no new dwellings will be built with fossil fuel heating in advance of 2025 in England & Wales, with the Scottish Government aiming for the same outcome from 2024. Scotland’s heat strategy also proposes new district heat networks consented from 2023 will need to use heat from low or zero emissions sources.

The policy shift away from fossil fuel heating is clear and accordingly the Government’s Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution aims for 600,000 heat pump sales per year by 2028 and industry predictions suggest over 1.5m by the early 2030s.

PADD Energy will continue to support organisations across the public and private sectors to reduce emissions, bringing our knowledge, skills and experience of heat pumps and other low carbon solutions to help decarbonise the heat market and aid the wider transition to Net Zero.

Padd Energy was set up in 2013 as a specialist energy engineering consultancy working on projects in the UK and across the globe. We design low carbon systems that use cutting-edge technologies to generate thermal energy and power. We take a flexible and dynamic approach to delivering these projects for our clients who operate in the private and public sectors. Our mission is to help deliver Net Zero and tackle climate change #makingnetzeroreal

Read more about our Net Zero Consultancy services or call us on 01423 900480. 

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