As civil society organizations working in the field of climate and environment, we have been working on the components of a green reconstruction process in line with the climate target across Turkey, with a particular focus on the earthquake region. The first output of our work, the position paper titled “The role of solar energy in earthquake emergency response and recovery/reconstruction process”, was shared with the public in the past weeks. 

In this document, as the second output of this process, we share our views/demands on heating and cooling systems based on renewable resources in buildings within the framework of the earthquake region and urban transformation debates. In this way, we aim to bring the use of heat pump systems, which can be supported by distributed renewable energy installation and support resilience in the face of disasters, to the agenda in the earthquake zone and to create a technical framework to support planning in this direction.

An alternative solution for heating and cooling in buildings: Heat pump

Today, more than 15% of global gas demand and 10% of total emissions come from heating in buildings. At this point, heat pumps, which run on electricity generated from renewable sources and are three to five times more efficient than natural gas boilers, stand out as a central technology in the transition to safe and sustainable heating. 

  • What is a heat pump/how does it work? A heat pump, as it is commonly used, refers to a system that takes the heat in the environment (air, water or soil), brings it to a high or low temperature using electrical energy and transfers this heat to another environment. The system receives 75% of its heat energy from thermal energy in the air and 25% from electrical energy. There are different types (such as air-to-air, air-to-water or ground source) according to the heat source and converter system.
  • Why are heat pumps important? It is estimated that heat pumps have the potential to reduce global carbon dioxide emissions by at least 500 million tons in 2030 – equivalent to the annual carbon dioxide emissions of all passenger cars in Europe today. Heat pumps, which can be used not only for heating but also for cooling and hot water supply, are expected to meet the air conditioning needs of 2.6 billion people by 2050.

In line with the global net zero targets, efforts to increase electrification in homes are accelerating, as in the motor vehicle market, and heat pumps are being brought to the agenda as important tools to support these targets. Heat pump sales increased by 11% in 2022 – the second year of double-digit growth – compared to the previous year. This rate is around 40% in Europe, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. On the other hand, financial incentives to expand the use of heat pumps are already available in more than 30 countries, covering more than 70% of global heating demand. In Germany, the cost of switching to renewable heating and cooling systems by 2028 is estimated at 9.16 billion euros.

The widespread use of heat pumps can be seen as a realistic step towards decarbonization in Turkey.

Heat pumps use electricity to utilize ambient heat and can provide the same amount of heat while consuming 20% to 30% of the electricity used by existing condensing gas boilers (domestic combi boilers). They operate more efficiently and cost less than fossil fuel boilers. At November 2022 prices, annual energy bill savings for households switching to a heat pump can reach up to $300 in the US. In Germany, a household with a heat pump can save up to 12%, including investment costs. 

  • Current situation: In Turkey, heating alone accounts for 50-60% of residential energy consumption, while 28% of total gas consumption is residential. This shows that Turkey is dependent on gas for heating. Considering that gas imports increased by 34% in the 2011-2021 period and that Turkey imports 98% of the gas it consumes, Turkey’s dependence on energy crises and the impact of this dependence on the current account deficit stand out as important areas of vulnerability. The energy deficit, which stood at USD 32.8 billion in 2016, rose to USD 80 billion in 2022.
  • Expectations: The share of renewable energy sources in electricity generation in Turkey is expected to increase from 42.4% in 2020 to 54.8% by 2035. In contrast, there is no target for renewable-based heating and cooling in buildings.

Under the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, the European Commission has set a target date of 2035 for a planned and phased phase-out of fossil fuel-based heating systems. In Turkey, as seen in European examples, the system that will come to the fore in this transition process is heat pumps as a highly energy efficient and clean solution. The widespread use of heat pumps requires energy efficiency and increasing the share of renewable energy in electricity generation. In Turkey, where the share of renewable energy sources in installed capacity is planned to reach 65% by 2035 (52% in 2020) and the reduction in energy intensity is planned to reach 51% (25% in 2020), the market volume of heat pumps, which has reached a sales level of approximately 10 thousand units per year, can be expected to increase further. 

The use of heat pumps stands out as a clean solution that will also support the post-earthquake reconstruction process.

Today, it is seen that electrification has increased in the planning of buildings, heat pumps and solar panels and equipment capable of heat recovery/ventilation are used. In this context, incorporating the use of heat pumps into the redesign and planning processes of cities in the aftermath of earthquakes will also contribute to the region in terms of climate goals.

Just like the use of solar storage systems to provide off-grid electricity supply at different disaster points, the use of heat pumps should be included in spatial plans and zoning practices as economical, sensitive to local needs and clean practices. The different uses of heat pumps are also suitable for temporary structures in the region. 

In these design, planning and implementation processes, our demands for the most effective use of heat pumps in building heating and cooling are as follows:

  • In the reconstruction process, the use of heat pumps that will increase energy efficiency should be prioritized. In this context, the use of heat pumps should be made mandatory by the Ministry of Environment, Urbanization and Climate Change for all new buildings in the medium term, starting with pilot regions.
  • The reconstruction process should be integrated with the installation of heating and cooling installations. Thermal insulation of buildings should be combined with measures to expand the use of heat pumps and increase efficiency. Buildings should be designed and constructed with the infrastructure to ensure electrification of energy needs and suitable for the installation of heat pumps. 
  • In post-earthquake housing, centralized systems supported by condensing boilers and solar panels are planned. However, in this planning, the installation of district heating systems should be considered as a sustainable and beneficial solution. 
  • For a more efficient system utilization, the share of renewable energy in electricity generation in the region should be increased
  • Legislation on the use of heat pumps, installation and required gas usage (e.g. F-gases) should be established and implemented. 
  • In order to expand the use of heat pumps, support and obligation mechanisms should be evaluated to provide low-interest and long-term loans in return for the incentives provided for heating based on fossil fuel sources. Efforts should be carried out with the support of both the public and civil society. Activities to raise awareness should be organized. 


European Climate Action Network

Sustainable Economy and Finance Research Association (SEFiA)

350 for Climate Association

Beyond Fossil Fuels 

Green Thought Association

Greenpeace Mediterranean