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Research ESRIG - Energy and Sustainability Research Institute Groningen Events

ESRIG-EES colloquium: Joris van de Wetering, MSc EES student

When:Tu 19-12-2017 at 16:00
Where:5159.0010 (Nijenborgh 6, Energy Academy Building)

Title: The socio-technological transition of household heating in the Netherlands; an evaluation of air-source heat pump technology.

This thesis studies the socio-technological development of household heating systems in the Netherlands with a focus on air-source heat pump technology. In 2017 more than 90% of the Dutch households are heated by gas based heating systems. Societal pressures due to gas exploitation induced earthquakes and increasing environmental awareness leads to action for change the current household heating regime. Alternatives for conventional household heating are particularly found in regional heat grids, bio-gas and heat-pump technology. Whilst heat grids are mainly discussed because of their sustainability  and bio-gas of more valuable use than as source for household heating, heat pump technology is underexposed in papers and reports. This thesis explores the factors that influence the socio-technological development of air-source heat pumps in the Netherlands.

The multi-level perspective is used as general framework to illustrate the technological transition of household heating technology on three heuristic societal levels; niche, regime and landscape -level (Geels, 2001). Pressures from landscape and niche level causes transition in socio-technological regimes. Barriers are factors that withhold the development of socio-technological transition.  Sustainable technologies are often disadvantaged with respect to non-sustainable technologies since mostly financial barriers need to be broken. That is why protective spaces emerge to compete with the current selection pressures (Smith & Raven, 2011).  The concepts of nurturing, shieling and empowerment are used to describe the development in the protective of the air-source heat pump technology. While theories of protective space and multi-level perspective focus mainly on actor networks, social values in combination with technology are often neglected.  This research adds the role of social values in the socio-technological transition of household heating technology by making use of the Value Sensitive Design approach (Manders-Huits, 2010).

Document analysis together with semi-structured stakeholder interviews determine the development of air-source heat pump technology. Cases are used to illustrate developments in socio-technological transition of household heating systems. Three protective spaces are describing the development of air-source heat pumps if three different selection environments; the build environment, the new build sector, housing corporation renovation, and housing corporation new build.

Results of this research show that air-source heat pump technology is deeply envisioned in actors future heating systems, mainly because of sustainability reasons and ease of installation in the build environment. Mentioned disadvantages are the needed additional renovation and insulation, high investment cost, noise disturbance, aesthetical effects and size. The main barriers for implementation are mainly corresponding to its disadvantages; the costing structure of renovations. Also recognition of the technology by homeowners and the unwillingness for change at the installation branch slow the development of air-source heat pump technology. Value analysis of the most important aspects of air-source heating technology show that noise, space use, financial and aesthetic aspects are seen as important aspect for the decision of this technology but are at the same time scored negatively. With respect to the decision making process of household heating systems.