Bogdan Kronovšek, Kronoterm: Heat pumps are definitely ready for smart grids
Date: May 12th 2021
Heat pumps are not only ready for smart grids, they can also be an effective flexibility management tool for grid operators and power distributors, said Bogdan Kronovšek, the managing director of the Slovenian company Kronoterm, in Energetika.NET’s latest video interview.
Kronoterm, a company for smart heating solutions based in Braslovče, Slovenia, had a revenue of EUR 17m in 2020, up from EUR 13m in 2019. Of this, sales of advanced heat pumps in foreign markets accounted for more than 60%. While the company also grew in terms of staff, it is still looking to hire technical consultants and developers, project designers, and sales managers.
The start of the video interview with Bogdan Kronovšek (in Slovenian only) focused on a recent accolade for Kronoterm: in a survey of 53 companies and the climate-compatibility of their portfolios that will help their sector decarbonise in line with the EU’s ambition to become carbon neutral by 2050, the European Environmental Bureau ranked Kronoterm as one of the leading manufacturers of domestic heating systems in Europe. What exactly does this mean in the heat pump sector?
European green transition expected to boost sales growth
According to Kronovšek, Kronoterm has supported the decarbonisation efforts directly with its products for more than 30 years, striving to make the heat pumps it develops and manufactures as user and environmentally friendly as possible. Now that the company has an even more comprehensive understanding of heating systems than it did at its beginnings, Kronoterm has also stepped up its efforts to reduce noise emissions and make heat pumps blend more seamlessly with their surroundings in terms of visual design.
“If the EU wants to radically cut its greenhouse gas emissions, it has to stop selling and installing systems that use fossil fuels, from heating oil to gas. Heat pumps as an alternative to this are one of the key tools to achieve these (environmental) objectives, therefore we expect sales to continue to grow in the coming years,” said Kronovšek.
For Energetika.NET’s feature on electric vehicles and heat pumps in April 2020, he said that CO2 savings from using a heat pump were between 50 and 80%, depending on the heating system and the type of heat pump used (MORE). This time, Kronovšek explained that a heat pump, as its name suggests, pumps heat from outside the building and delivers it into the building at a higher temperature.
Solar PV for zero-emission heating
“This, of course, requires some electricity. If we use a heat pump with a seasonal performance factor of 5, this means that the heat pump will deliver 5 units of heat for every unit of electricity it uses. If this one unit (of electricity) is generated from a mix of energy sources – hydro, thermal, and nuclear – only a portion of emissions are associated with the source of the energy used. Even the least efficient combination of a heat pump and high-temperature heating more than halves the emissions produced with a gas-based heating solution. Compared with solid fuels or even fuel oil, emission savings are even higher,” said Kronovšek. A combination with solar PV for a self-sufficient system would, in his words, deliver a free-of-charge and even zero-emission heating option.
Kronoterm has recently launched a product together with the energy company GEN-I, offering a combination of a heat pump and a solar PV plant (MORE, available in Slovenian only). According to Kronovšek, sales figures are very good: “I was surprised to see so many people in Slovenia choose to tackle an energy issue with a package solution, in a very advanced way.” When asked whether the packages would be upgraded in future, Kronovšek confirmed, with a reference to smart grids, that this was indeed the plan.
Heat pumps as a flexibility tool
“I see heat pumps as a vital tool that will help grid operators and power distributors manage smart grids even better. This is not necessarily connected with investment in the grid.” One of the projects Kronoterm has been involved in was ‘Active consumers’, which demonstrated how the power system could be managed by switching off heat pumps when necessary. “Heat pumps are definitely ready for smart grids,” emphasised Kronovšek.
That said, the state should in his opinion be bold enough to support only a selection of sources and technologies, thus to avoid repeating past mistakes. In one such case, Slovenia’s Eco Fund provided subsidies to encourage the use of solid fuels. Soon thereafter, local communities had to use their own funds to replace these systems with energy sources that did not produce harmful emissions. Kronovšek mentions gas in the same package, adding that buying a heat pump is a good investment even without incentives.
Working on ‘mini heat pumps’ while keeping an eye on hydrogen
Kronoterm keeps abreast of the developments in hydrogen, an industry Kronovšek deems still has considerable untapped potential in terms of efficiency. In his view, heat pumps and fuel cells could make a great combination.
In conclusion, the interview looked into the company’s business results in 2020, when Kronoterm recorded sales growth of as much as 27%, mostly in foreign markets. These markets account for more than 60% of Kronoterm’s revenue, and further export growth is part of the company’s strategy. As one of the more interesting projects for Kronoterm at the moment, Kronovšek mentioned the development of small heat pumps that could be installed on a balcony of a flat. The company designed the product for a Dutch client, and has recently delivered twenty prototypes to the client, while batch production is scheduled to begin in June.
The video interview is available HERE (in Slovenian only).
This article is available also in Slovene.