The Dutch government and professional organisations have agreed to create a covenant, or voluntary agreement, aimed at boosting the use of heat pumps in residential housing. According to the Dutch energy and environment agency Novem, the covenant should help to achieve a 1997 national target for heat pumps to deliver 16 petajoules (PJ) of energy savings in the domestic sector by 2020. It calculates that about 1m heat pumps would have to be fitted to secure this level of energy conservation. Boosting the use of heat pumps in the domestic sector is seen as an important element towards fulfilling the Dutch government's broader goal to achieve a sustainable energy system, according to Leon Wijshoff of Novem. European countries such as Switzerland are already fitting large numbers of heat pumps in housing, he said, while there are only some five thousand installed in the Netherlands. Domestic heat pump installation has developed more slowly in the domestic sector than in industry and commercial buildings due to its higher costs and a lack of knowledge. Three working groups are now to try to tackle these problems by defining four-year goals for a covenant covering product and system development, demonstration projects and market stimulation. Formal agreement on the covenant is expected in November. Participants, including Novem, the Dutch economic ministry, heat pump suppliers, installers and housing developers, signed a letter of intent at the Sustain '99 world sustainable energy fair in Amsterdam.
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