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Energy technology: “The decade of the heat pump”: Stiebel Eltron is aiming for a billion in sales

Munich The building sector plays a central role in the fight against climate change. According to the Federal Environment Agency in Germany, houses account for around 30 percent of CO2 emissions – and heating in the home is by far the largest emitter of carbon dioxide.

The manufacturers of heat pumps see themselves as winners of the energy transition. “During the pandemic, people were less able to travel and shop,” said Nicholas Matten, managing director at Stiebel Eltron, the Handelsblatt. “Many have invested in a more efficient and climate-friendly heating system.”

The result: The family company’s turnover this year rose by a double-digit percentage from 705 to more than 800 million euros for the first time. “We actually want to accelerate growth,” said Matten. “We are facing the heat pump a decade ago.”

Without the global shortage of components and raw materials, Stiebel Eltron would have been able to sell even more this year. By 2024 at the latest, when the company will be 100 years old, the billion in sales should be cracked.

Stiebel Eltron is one of the leading European suppliers of heat pumps. These draw around three quarters of the heat energy from air, water or earth. With the help of electricity, the thermal energy is brought to the temperature level required for heating purposes. There is no need to use fossil fuels such as gas or oil.

Therefore, according to the assessment of providers such as Stiebel Eltron or Viessmann, heat pumps are climate-friendly – especially if they are operated with electricity from renewable energies.

“The topic of climate change has arrived in the middle of society,” says Matten. Other markets such as Great Britain, Italy and China are even further ahead than Germany.

For the users, however, the electricity costs play a central role. “The step decided in the coalition agreement to abolish the EEG surcharge from January 2023 is the right approach to unleash the full potential of greentech in Germany,” said Matten.

Group fears no power gap

The group does not fear a power shortage, even if, according to experts, the demand for electricity will increase in the next few years. It is more efficient to convert gas into electricity in power plants than to burn it, says Matten.

The coalition agreement states that the gross electricity demand in 2030 will be in a range between 680 and 750 terawatt hours (TWh). For comparison: in 2020 gross electricity consumption in the Federal Republic of Germany was 545 TWh.

The new federal government had also announced that by 2030 around 80 percent of the electricity consumed in Germany should come from renewable sources. At the same time, the last coal-fired power plant is expected to go offline in 2030. Due to the higher share of renewables, the CO2 balance of heat pumps is further improved.

According to the assessment of the energy advisory service of the Federal Association of Consumers, heat pumps make sense if the building has good thermal insulation, for example through insulation and modern windows. Ideally there is underfloor or wall heating and green electricity. “Then heat pumps are one of the few CO2-neutral heating options.”

Heat pump heating from Stiebel Eltron

With the help of electricity, the thermal energy is brought to the required temperature level. There is no need to use fossil fuels such as gas or oil.

(Photo: Stiebel Eltron)

It is now also possible to convert old buildings to heat pumps. When replacing an old gas heater, the government says that up to 35 percent of the costs for acquisition, installation and hydraulic balancing are paid. If the air-water heat pump replaces an old oil heater, the subsidy rate increases to 45 percent. Half of the costs can be reimbursed with an additional bonus.

There is some catching up to do. According to the Federal Association of Chimney Sweepers, 53 percent of the around 21 million installed heating systems are technically outdated and inadequately efficient. Only 21 percent of the systems are state-of-the-art and at the same time integrate renewable energies.

The entire industry recently felt a strong increase in demand in Germany. According to the Federal Association of the German Heating Industry, sales of heating heat pumps are likely to have risen by around 30 percent to 156,000 units this year.

Production in Germany very efficient

The growth was thus significantly stronger than for gas and oil heating systems. According to extrapolations, sales here rose by six and two percent respectively. Only biomass heating increased somewhat more, with a plus of 33 percent to 72,000. This was mainly due to the great demand for pellet solutions.

Experts anticipate continued high demand for heat pumps. Stiebel Eltron is preparing for the expected boom and is massively expanding its production capacities. Production at the headquarters in Holzminden, Lower Saxony, is to be doubled by 2026. To this end, Stiebel Eltron is investing 120 million euros in heat pump production and hiring 400 additional employees.

The production location Germany has many strengths, said managing director Matten. “We have excellent engineers here.” He also doesn’t think in terms of wage costs, but in terms of unit labor costs. Production can be carried out very efficiently in Germany. The group is also investing in expanding production, for example in Sweden and Thailand.

Stiebel Eltron was founded in 1924. Company founder Thomas Stiebel invented the immersion heater in Berlin and built the first plant there. This was completely destroyed in the Second World War. After the war, the company settled in Holzminden.

In addition to heat pumps, Stiebel Eltron and its 4,000 employees now also offer hot water devices, ventilation systems and room heaters, among other things. Today the company is owned equally by Frank Stiebel, son of the company founder, and the Stiebel Family Foundation.

Matten is confident about the coming years: “We are already where many people are headed.” Stiebel Eltron is a kind of “Tesla for the heating industry”. The US carmaker has relied on electromobility from the start, giving it a head start, while traditional manufacturers have yet to cope with the transformation.

More: Criticism of the EU building directive

Reference-www.handelsblatt.com

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