District Heating and Cooling and Heat Interface Units are still closely tied markets

Socrates Christidis
BSRIA Research Manager – Heating and Renewables

District Heating and Cooling networks have witnessed significant growth in many European countries in the last five years and this is set to continue in the coming decade. Significant European policy initiatives, such as the Green Deal, country government promotions, alongside increased public and private investment are supporting new business models such as utilities selling heat as a service and not as a commodity, which will drive the market forward.

BSRIA research indicates that the share of heat pumps and Energy-from-Waste in district heating and cooling systems is increasing. This trend is in line with the development of the concept of 5th generation heat networks. These are demand driven and low-temperature networks, using locally available low-grade waste heat (A/C, datacentres, underground stations, etc.), low temperature renewable energy in bodies of water and solar energy instead of a central energy centre. In principle, such systems favour the use of substations at building level, but no heat interface units at the dwelling level, as these are likely to be replaced by heat pumps.

Currently industrial boilers and CHPs remain the main source of heating in District Heating networks. For instance, 85% of planned heat networks in the UK, will have a CHP as the primary source of heating and 50% will have a gas boiler as a backup. The remaining 15% will use geothermal, ground source or water source heat pumps.

Thus, in the short-term Heat Interface Units (HIUs) will remain the link between the apartment and the network.

Going forward, reducing demand for heating and increasing need for hot water and cooling imply that the market will see the uptake of:

  • All-in-one units (heating or cooling and hot water)
  • Cooling units
  • Hybrid units, with integrated electric water heating
Graph showing European HIUs market growth

The main threats for HIUs market progress are the currently lack of consistent quality of installation and COVID-19.

Heat interface units have a major impact on the overall performance of a heat network and successful operation and performance both depend on correct system design and specification, followed by competent installation and maintenance. This has been problematic, with systems inadequately designed and quite often oversized. We see some signs of improvements as the industry becomes more sensitised towards good quality district heating. Documentation is improving as well as codes of practice, testing of HIUs, and further testing on site; however, under tight budgets the emphasis is often for the lowest cost, specification compliant technology. Testing the unit in a lab and then onsite is optional but critical to ensure performance.

Closing of construction sites was the main impact of the Coronavirus pandemic, including lack of cash flow, as the invoicing is done when products are delivered onsite. The industry has also witnessed a lack of new orders from April to June, with some signs of recovery observed just after. Overall, the European sales in the first 6 months of 2020 were between 15% and 30% down, depending on country, when compared to the 6 first months of 2019.

Going forwards, new construction presents a slightly positive picture. During COVID-19 there has been delays but not cancellations in planning permissions; delays as sites operate under social distancing guidelines and some delays for new investment to come through. However, governments and authorities are still eager to go ahead with programs and incentives, with renewed emphasis on the environmental agenda.

Looking at estimations for completions of flats before and after the outbreak, the recovery is likely to accelerate in 2022, and the market is unlikely to recover before. The end of financial support schemes by governments (VAT deferral, loan schemes or furlough) is likely to have a negative impact on many businesses, including contractors. Indications are, that new build and residential sales will be hit harder than commercial ones. Southern Europe is also likely to struggle more, although recession is expected across most of European countries.

Taking all this into account, BSRIA sees the numbers of heat interface units growing steadily but at a single digit compound annual growth rate of just over 4% on a Pan-European basis. The market will become more diverse and will look for more flexible options to cater for high-end, electricity-only heating, mixed-used and communal areas.

To find out more about BSRIA’s District Energy and Heat Interface unit market studies contact us at:

2019 China Heating Market Dynamics

China has by far the largest heating market in the world in terms of units manufactured and sold. In 2019, a little over 40,000,000 units, including, boilers, water heaters and heat pumps, were sold in China. The country also has the world’s largest network of pipes supplying gas for heating systems. China has been developing its gas network very actively over the last years and consequently the country’s total building area covered by gas pipework has more than doubled in the past 15 years. Growing accessibility of gas across the country, coupled with government’s efforts to tackle air pollution and green house gas emissions underlines the potential for continuous growth of heating in the country. To give it some perspective, the sales of gas domestic boilers have grown 10-fold in the last 11 years.

 

boilers6

Source:  BSRIA

 

Today, the heating market is shaped by three areas of sales impact, each having its own dynamic:

  1. Government policy represented mainly by “Coal to gas” and “Coal to electricity” projects

Coupled with expansion of the gas network, stronger governance, better product quality and more competitive gas prices this policy is continuing to strongly impact sales of gas fuelled products, in line with the Chinese government’s 5-year plan (2016-2020 – 3th 5-year plan.

The policy has also a strong impact on the progression of the heat pump market, mainly for water heating, although growth of heat pumps for both, heating and hot water provision has also grown in the recent years.

Compared with the vigorous “coal-to-gas” and “coal-to-electricity” projects in the domestic market, commercial boilers have higher requirements for large-scale, stable and constant fuel supply and corresponding infrastructure construction, which makes the transition from coal to cleaner energy more difficult. Nevertheless, a moderate growth was also seen in the commercial gas boiler and commercial heat pump markets.

  1. Regular project market (new build)

New build is currently driving sales of heating products thanks to the existing pre-decoration policy, which is currently supported by local government to deliver fully fitted buildings, with operational heating systems installed.

The importance of the new build market is significant in China as it delivered sales of some 1.5 million gas boilers and over 900 thousand heat pumps to the new residential dwellings.

  1. Retail market (replacement and high-end new build)

Retail distribution chain has a strong impact on sales of all heating products as it is the most common place of provision of products for clients. Those replacing old, inefficient appliances or willing to install the appliances of their own choice in the newly acquired dwellings source them in retail shops. This market is very sensitive to economic situation and changes quickly depending on the consumer confidence level. It represents a large opportunity as there are millions of heating systems in China, which are older than 10 years – the time after which replacement is normally considered. Similarly, in many new houses owners opt to have better quality heat systems than those installed by the contractor as part of the pre-decoration policy.

With regards to district heating, the market has accelerated in recent years as policies to deal with air quality have been promoted and investments have been made. There are currently more than 400 projects underway and nearly 100 enterprises engaged. The industry generally believes that the development of smart district heating projects opens attractive strategic opportunities.

However, China is in a period of low economic growth and dealing with the aftermath of COVID-19 implications. Both will have an impact on the performance of the country’s heating product sales this year.

BSRIA is preparing the updated view on 2020 market performance and short term forecast for boilers and heat pump markets that will be available in September 2020.


By Socrates Christidis, Research Manager Heating & Renewables,

BSRIA, World Wide Market Intelligence


Notes to editors:
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