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White Papers 15 March 2022

Strengthening Industrial Heat Pump Innovation

Seven research centres collaborated to explore industrial heat pumps, an energy-efficient electrification technology. The EERA Joint Programme Energy Efficiency in Industrial Processes served as the platform to facilitate the research work. One of the objectives, to accelerate the implementation and further development of this promising technology.


With Europe's strong ambitions to move towards a net-zero carbon economy by 2050, radical changes are needed to the current industrial energy supply model. Electrically driven heat pump technology has been proposed to supply heat and increase the industry's process efficiency for many decades. Thanks to larger shares of renewables in the electricity system, the decarbonisation potential of this technology is rapidly growing.

Despite offering high energy and emission saving potential, the uptake of heat pumps is currently limited. TNO, the Netherland organisation for applied scientific research, initiated and coordinated an initiative with seven other European research institutes to collaborate on a white paper to improve industrial heat pump technology prospects. The involved organisations participate actively in the EERA Joint Programme (JP) Energy Efficiency in Industrial Processes (EEIP), namely DTI, DTU, Sintef, AIT, UPV, RISE, and NTB.

The goals of the whitepaper were to simultaneously:

  • Promote heat pumps as the reference low-temperature heating technology in the industry sector.
  • Demonstrate the application and decarbonisation potential of industrial heat pumps.
  • Bring industrial heat pumps to the forefront of National and European strategic research and innovation agendas.
  • Stimulate the coordination of research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) of industrial heat pumps at a European level.

The white paper was targeted towards policy and decision-makers at both National and European levels to increase their awareness about this technology, which could be a basis to establish programmes to unlock its decarbonisation potential. It was also intended to act as a driver for heat pump manufacturers to develop technology for industrial applications and provide prospects of the technology.

The dissemination aspect was particularly challenging. The research team focused on online channels and leveraged the networks of the various R&D organisations. The geographic diversity of the institutions authoring the white paper became a strength in ensuring a wider reach and a more substantial impact. The delivery of the white paper's key messages was reinforced thanks to the organisation of a webinar in which more than 350 people took part and interacted with the co-writers.

The success of this collaborative effort has become evident through the increased interest in the technology. Industrial heat pumps are now being perceived as a key decarbonisation technology within the European community. Such perspective is reflected in the recently released Horizon Europe programme, which contains multiple calls covering heat pump topics up to 250°C. The success of this collaboration will surely be enhanced through further coordinated developments as part of this programme.

More significant than the increased attention by the European community is the renewed interest from heat pump manufacturers who are progressively willing to develop cost-effective products for the market. In addition, there has been a remarkable increase in the number of industrial end-users reaching out to understand the role that heat pumps can play to decarbonise their processes. Many of these end-users express a strong desire to commit to pilot or demonstration projects, which is considered the next step in the path towards widescale acceptance of industrial heat pump technology.

Following the success of this white paper, the EERA Joint Programme Energy Efficiency in Industrial Processes is already working on a new publication in collaboration with JP Energy Storage. The forthcoming white paper on industrial thermal energy storage aims to increase awareness of this enabling technology and its role in the transition to a more sustainable industrial energy system.

For more information, visit Webinar Heat pumps for decarbonising the industry | TNO.