Heat pumps unlikely to blow our HFC budget

The Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water (DCCEEW) has released a new report from the Expert Group that analyses how increased heat pump deployment in Australia could impact our goals to phase down HFC refrigerants. The report finds that although heat pump use will rise significantly, there will not be an increase to the HFC phase-down projection.

Australia is experiencing a surge of heat pump sales that is expected to continue at least into the mid-2030s as heat pumps replace gas appliances in both existing and new buildings. Applications for this equipment include domestic and commercial hot water, air conditioning, clothes dryers, swimming pools, and industrial processes.

The wave of new equipment raised concerns that the refrigerant bank could grow significantly and jeopardise Australia’s commitment under the Kigali Amendment to reduce the use of HFCs by 85 per cent by 2036. The report, Heat Pumps – Emerging trends in the Australian Market, was commissioned to assess this risk.

It finds that the additional HFC usage from the surge in heat pumps is estimated to add up to 0.071 million tonnes of CO2e, equating to around 4.4 per cent of the Montreal Protocol limit of 1.622 million tonnes CO2e in 2036. Although an increase, it is unlikely to cause major issues with the phase-down plan. Much of the equipment is in sealed systems that have low servicing requirements and low leak rates.

The report highlights that the largest emission risk from this equipment is at end of life. Accordingly, the government is looking at initiatives around developing product restrictions and improving refrigerant recovery.

The full report is available at the DCCEEW website.

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