Efficiency campaigners have been left fuming after the EU’s Green Paper on 2030 climate targets almost completely failed to address the role that heat savings can play in reducing carbon emissions.
Heat is responsible for some 45% of the continent’s final energy consumption, with huge losses arising from inefficiency.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that excess heat from power stations within the Organisation for Economic Coordination and Development (OECD), comprising the world’s 34 most-advanced countries, amounts to roughly 40 exajoules per year, equivalent to 10 times the EU-27’s final energy consumption.
But the Green Paper only makes three cursory mentions of heat loss.
“There is a tremendous potential for turning waste heat into useful heat that could be used to produce electricity or to feed district heating networks,” Arnaud Duvielguerbigny, the head of policy at Cogen Europe told EURACTIV. “Yet the green Paper is missing a better identification of the problem.”
The most detailed mention of heating and cooling comes in a passage in the Paper on the Energy Performance in Buildings Directive, which notes that "delays and incomplete national measures to implement this directive risk undermining the necessary contribution of the buildings sector towards lower GHG emissions and reduced energy consumption."
However it proposes no particular remedy for this, and omits discussion of heat losses from industry altogether, even though they are thought to equal those from domestic use.
“There is a huge quantity of energy being used in the processing industries and obviously the heat demand there is not going to switch to electricity,” Duvielguerbigny said, adding: “It is not cost-effective today and is not likely to be in the foreseeable future."
Commission “bias” to electricity
A 'bias' had led the Commission to view its 2050 targets in terms of electricity and power markets rather than heating and cooling, Duvielguerbigny argued, and as a result it had missed a trick in pinpointing future energy savings.
A range of thermal conversion technologies can be mobilised to capture waste heat and channel it away from chimney vents from which it enters the atmosphere, and towards existing or potential district heating networks, instead. The process is known as Combined Heat and Power (CHP), or cogeneration.
Unease at the disappearance of the issue from the EU’s political horizon may find voice in the European Parliament, where MEP’s last month voted through a strongly worded report on the EU’s energy roadmap 2050.
Lawmakers called on the Commission to “allocate increased funding to local energy infrastructures such as district heating and cooling… that bring about efficient, low and no-carbon solutions that will substitute the import and European wide exchange/transport of energy.”
European fossil fuel imports are currently running at around €350-€400 billion per year, by some estimates.
In its Energy Technology Perspectives 2012, the IEA said that “heating and cooling remain neglected areas of energy policy and technology, but their decarbonisation is a fundamental element towards a low carbon economy.”
Energy Efficiency Watch
As yet, few heat efficiency campaigners are calling for binding targets aimed at heat loss but such calls may arise in other areas, after the launch of Energy Efficiency Watch (EEW), a new project monitoring member state progress towards meeting energy savings obligations.
Results from an extensive EEW survey of 700 national experts on implementation of the first National Energy Efficiency Action Plans found that where EU climate targets were voluntary, an “enormous disparity” existed between the political will for energy savings action at national level.
Some member states “just do the bare minimum required by the European Directives, and sometimes not even that,” the report says.
Experts canvassed expressed concern that energy efficiency had not attracted the attention of high level policy makers, especially at a time of acute political crisis. A large number of them “stressed the crucial role of EU legislation in driving national energy efficiency policies,” the report makes clear.
“They mentioned that without EU directives, no or nearly no activities would have been carried out in their countries.”
Even so, the first priority for heat loss campaigners should be on data collection to achieve a critical mass of information that could trigger action, Duvielguerbigny said.
But he added that he was not happy that the Green Paper had omitted heat loss from the discussion on sub-sectoral targets.
“Obviously that is something that we should consider,” he said. “We should ponder the obligations that we need, and clearly reassess the linkages between all policies in the energy and climate area.”