Heat electrification in Poland | The path to clean heat
Despite the government's declarations, progress in improving air quality in Poland has been poor. The rate of modernisation of buildings is slow, and public funds continue to support the replacement of old coal boilers with other coal-fired options, which other European countries have phased out. Meanwhile, a huge stream of European money will be flowing towards 'clean heat' in the coming years. In the newest analysis from the Forum Energii, we explain why it is worth betting on electrification of heating, identify which technologies have a future, and explore how this will affect the energy system.
Why electrification is the future
If we want to improve air quality and reduce CO2 emissions, coal has no place in heating. Change is inevitable both in households and large district heating systems. As much as 87% of coal burned in the EU for individual heating is used by Polish residents. This is due to dwindling domestic coal resources, rising CO2 emission costs and the degree of wear and tear on installations.
Poland and other EU countries are at the threshold of a building renovation wave that will significantly improve their energy efficiency. In the near future, therefore, energy will be needed not so much to heat buildings, but rather to reheat them. In such conditions, the simplest way to ensure thermal comfort will be to use electric appliances. The technology with the most promising future, especially in households, is heat pumps.
Why heat pumps
The key advantage of a heat pump is its high efficiency - one kilowatt-hour of electricity generates three to four kilowatt-hours of renewable heat.
-To heat the house, the pump extracts heat from the environment or the ground and distributes it throughout the building. This ambient energy is completely free and renewable. The energy required to run the pump can come, for example, from photovoltaic panels installed on the roof of the house. This combination makes the initial investment in a heat pump and PV panels more expensive than other heating sources, but over the course of operation, the heating costs for the household are low. Such an investment simply pays off - explains Andrzej Rubczyński, Heating Strategy Director at Forum Energii.
An additional benefit of expanding the use heat pumps is the considerable drop in smog and greenhouse gas emissions. In the analysis Heat electrification in Poland, we show that a house heated by a heat pump emits 40% less carbon dioxide than a house heated by coal. This calculation takes into account the overall balance of national CO2 emissions, even with the current carbon-heavy energy mix.
Heat pumps as a driving force for industry
Interest in heat pumps in Poland is growing dynamically every year. Compared to other EU countries, however, we are at just beginning to distribute this technology. Our analysis shows that approximately 1.5 million heat pumps could be installed in Poland by 2030, which would make it possible to replace nearly half of the coal-fired furnaces and boilers used today.
This is a powerful opportunity for the Polish industry. The production and installation of heat pumps may become a Polish speciality, create new jobs and generate high added value for the economy. However, this will only happen if the industry starts preparing for production of equipment today and only if the assembly companies have an appropriate number of qualified employees - Andrzej Rubczyński concluded.
District heating companies can also contribute to electrification of the heating sector by offering customers a "thermal comfort service" and installing heat pumps. Active participation by district heating companies in this field may create economies of scale, allowing for standardisation of equipment and reduction in production - and purchase costs - for heat pumps.
Electrification of the heat industry and stability of National Power System
The progressive electrification of economic sectors, including heating, and the development of renewable energy sources create challenges for the National Power System. The most important task will be to adapt to changes in the power system, with regard to both production from variable renewables and increasing demand for power at peak times However, heat pumps, equipped with heat accumulators and benefiting from the thermal inertia of buildings, can play an important role in balancing demand and supply and support the stable operation of the National Power System.
Heat pumps can take advantage of the fact that the power system gets increasingly cleaner and smarter. They also provide the power system with a flexible resource that can be used to absorb otherwise curtailed electricity generation, and heat pumps can be turned down to ease congestion and lower peak-load capacity needs. – explained author of the analysis, Dr Jan Rosenow, Principal and European Programme Director at Regulatory Assistance Project.
Poland needs a vision for transforming the heating sector and a strategy to achieve its goals for clean air, minimising the climate impact of the energy sector and energy efficiency. The coming years offer the best opportunity for bold changes in the heating and district heating sectors. Poland will have at its disposal EU funds for transformation of the energy sector and economic reconstruction after the coronavirus, but also its own budget revenues from CO2 emission allowances. Poland should treat the modernisation of its heating sector as one of the flagship projects that will allow our economy to move away from fossil fuels and to boost domestic industry at the same time. However, it is crucial to clearly define the goal and to make difficult decisions, such as those concerning the final deadline for phasing out coal from households and the heating sector, which should be 2030 and 2035 respectively.
- 1.5 million units - This is the potential for heat pump installations in Poland by 2030. If achieved, these heat pumps would replace nearly 50% of solid-fuel (coal) furnaces and boilers used in Polish homes today.
- The installation of 1.5 million heat pumps would reduce CO2 emissions from households by one-fifth, i.e., approximately 6.5 million tonnes/year, (based on today's carbon-heavy generation mix in the National Power System).
- The installation of a heat pump in conjunction with solar photovoltaics can lower annual cost of heating a home by 18%‑30% compared to other heat sources that can be used to replace a coal-fired boilers.
- The dissemination of heat pumps means a 60% increase in heat production from renewable energy sources, compared to the current levels of renewables used to heat individual homes.
- The electrification of economic sectors, including heating, means an increase in peak electricity demand. However, heat pumps can serve as a balancing element for the National Power System. With the installation of 1.5 million pumps and intelligent management of their operation, the reduction in peak power demand could be as high as 1.5 GW.
Analysis "Heat electrification in Poland. The path to clean heat" was created in cooperation with Regulatory Assistance Project.
Jan Rosenow, Regulatory Assistance Project
Andrzej Rubczyński, Forum Energii
Piotr Kleinschmidt, Forum Energii