Heat pump sales fall by 5% while EU delays action

Credits: EHPA

Heat pump sales in 14 European countries fell by around 5% overall in 2023 compared to 2022, from 2.77 million to 2.64 million. This reverses the trend of the last decade, where combined sales increased annually. The slowdown is already forcing manufacturers to cut or reduce jobs – the changes announced so far will impact nearly 3,000 employees.

France, Italy, Sweden, Finland, Poland, Denmark, Austria and Switzerland all saw heat pump sales drop last year. While they increased in Portugal, Belgium, Norway, the Netherlands, Spain and Germany this was not enough to offset the overall decrease. What’s more, even in many countries that saw overall growth, quarterly sales declined towards the end of 2023. Market analysts expect this downwards trend to continue way into 2024.

Very new figures from the UK, not yet included in the graphs or overall calculations, show national sales growth of 4% last year.

The dropping sales come as the EU’s Heat Pump Action Plan, due to be published in early 2024 to support the sector, is delayed by the European Commission until ‘a time to be decided’. In the meantime, high interest rates and changing national policy measures are unsettling investors and consumers. Governments increased support for people investing in heat pumps in 2022 following the energy crisis triggered by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In 2023 much of that support was restricted or removed. This was the case in Italy, which saw one the biggest drops between 2022 and 2023 sales, for example.

The slowdown in heat pump sales puts the EU’s climate and energy targets at risk. This includes the 2030 target of 49% renewables in heating and the 60 million heat pumps to meet REPowerEU.

Thomas Nowak, secretary general at the European Heat Pump Association said:
“The heat pump sector is facing stormy weather, and needs all hands on deck. Companies have invested in training and manufacturing capacity and consumers are on board. What’s now vital is a compass in the form of the EU Heat Pump Action Plan and subsequent national plans. These will steady the waters.

“If Europe is serious about supporting net zero industries, decarbonising, and achieving greater energy independence, it can not afford to delay. A proper action plan shows voters that EU policy makers have their back. The longer we wait, the more challenging the decarbonisation of heating and cooling will be,” added Nowak.  

The taxes and levies applied to energy should be addressed to reduce the price of electricity for end users. In 2022 gas prices were high, making electric heat pumps a more financially worthwhile investment. With the price of fossil gas coming down, and electricity often carrying a tax burden, electricity prices are sometimes as much as four times those of gas.

Bringing stable policy support and ensuring electricity is around twice the price of gas – for example through a carbon price and tax breaks – are crucial to turn “the cost of heat pumps” into an investment that enables continuous savings on heating. This will trigger end-user demand and bring more heat pumps to decarbonise the heating and cooling sector and support greater EU energy independence.

Publishing the EU Heat Pump Action Plan rapidly – as called for by over 60 CEOs and a wide group of associations in letters to Commission president von der Leyen – is the essential first step.

EHPA is expecting total sales for 2023 to bring the total heat pump stock to around 23 million in Europe (EU 27 + UK, Norway and Switzerland).