EU’s untapped heating and cooling potential laid bare

Heating and cooling accounts for half the EU's energy demands. [Shutterstock]

Europe’s heating and cooling sector accounts for more than one third of the EU’s untapped renewable energy potential, according to one new study, while another has highlighted which countries are the worst for deaths caused by living in cold homes.

Research by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) found that deployment of renewables in the heating and cooling sector, which accounts for half of the EU’s energy demand, has been slower than in the power sector.

It also revealed that 34% of the bloc’s heating and cooling needs could be fueled by renewables by 2030 if faster progress is made, including the roll-out of heat pumps, which could meet nearly a tenth of heating needs.

Converting district heating, which meets 9% of needs, from its mostly coal- or gas-powered production to renewables should also be considered, according to the IRENA report.

Momentum builds behind higher renewables target

Europe could pursue a more ambitious renewable energy target for 2030 and still keep costs affordable, according to a new European Commission-backed study, which suggests a 34% benchmark ahead of all-important institutional talks.

Mayor of Wrocław Rafał Dutkiewicz told that one of the main achievements of his 15-year-long service has been the reduction of coal-fired heating points from more than 90,000 in 2002 to just 20,000 in 2017, adding that the job is not done yet.

Reacting to IRENA’s findings, technology group Danfoss reiterated the importance of district heating in the energy transition and increased uptake of renewables. EU affairs expert Susanne Tull explained that district energy can even balance the energy system by using renewable electricity during times of peak production.

She called on negotiators tackling the update of the renewable energy directive to ensure that there is an ambitious target for the heating and cooling sector. A first informal trilogue begins on Tuesday (27 February) after the European Parliament agreed its 35% position in January.

EU Parliament wins plaudits for backing 35% renewables target

European lawmakers approved draft measures on Wednesday (17 January) to raise the share of renewable energy to 35% of the EU’s energy mix by 2030, setting the stage for tough talks with reluctant EU member states in the coming weeks.

Winter is coming

The need to provide adequate heating in particular, regardless of energy source, took on a new dimension when a study by energy think tank E3G revealed how many excess winter deaths there are in Europe.

Malta, Portugal, Cyprus, Spain, Ireland and the UK topped the list of countries with the highest excess winter mortality rates. But that ranking only takes into account data collected in the winter months.

Further analysis showed that when months beyond the December-March period are taken into account, when in some countries heating still has to be provided, Ireland and the UK topped the chart of 30 European countries.

In the UK, 9,700 deaths in the December-March period are attributable to avoidable circumstances and living in a cold home. E3G warned that this is the same number of people who die each other year from breast or prostate cancer.

The EU will hope that the recent launch of the Energy Poverty Observatory will address a problem that is thought to affect more than 100 million people in Europe. The online portal is meant to help member states share knowledge and best practices on things like renovation rates and insulation.

Energy poverty chairman: Extreme summer heat could provide wake-up call

Two out of three EU countries do not measure energy poverty but a new observatory launched on Monday (29 January) should provide member states with the information they need to address a problem that could affect more than 100 million people in Europe, says the chair of the EU’s Energy Poverty Observatory.

E3G pointed out that the UK’s poor performance is linked to the fact that British homes are among the least energy efficient in Europe, according to data from 2015.

The EU recently rubber-stamped its Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, which lays down rules for building renovation rates post-2020. Negotiators will now turn to a number of other clean energy package files, among which is the more complex Energy Efficiency Directive recast.

After a negotiating period fraught with political intrigue, members of the European Parliament eventually backed a binding 35% target for 2030 during the January plenary session in Strasbourg.

Backtrack in Strasbourg as MEPs compromise on energy efficiency

The European Parliament has abandoned its long-held 40% energy efficiency target at the final hurdle, after political groups backed a binding 35% goal in 2030 instead.

Talks between MEPs, the Commission and member states will be tough, as many EU countries believe the target should be lower or even non-binding.

But the Parliament’s more ambitious position was given a shot in the arm at the beginning of the month when Sweden announced that it will back the 35% energy efficiency goal, as well as the 35% goal for renewable energy.

Discussions on efficiency began at the tail-end of last week between the three parties and the Bulgarian presidency of the EU has indicated that it would like to close the file before its six-month stint in charge comes to an end in July.


What is heating & cooling?

Heating and cooling our buildings and industry accounts for half of the EU’s energy consumption. 82% of heating and cooling is still generated from fossil fuels while only 18% is generated from renewable energy [source: EC].

What are the renewable options?

Mark your agenda

Policymakers and other experts are getting together this 22nd May in Brussels to discuss the future of the heating and cooling sector. We recommend joining this workshop featuring a keynote speech by Dominique Ristori, Director General for Energy, European Commission. Register here.

More about the supporters

The European Copper Institute is a joint venture between the International Copper Association Ltd. (ICA), headquartered in New York, representing the majority of the world’s leading mining companies, custom smelters and semi-fabricators, and the European copper industry.

The European Biomass Association (AEBIOM) is the common voice of the bioenergy sector with the aim to develop a sustainable bioenergy market based on fair business conditions.

EGEC, the European Geothermal Energy Council, is a non-profit international organisation founded in 1998 to promote the European geothermal industry and enable its development both in Europe and worldwide, by shaping policy, improving business condition, and driving more research and development.

Solar Heat Europe strives for the growth of solar heat solutions in Europe through different actions, such as advocating for better regulation or encouraging the EU policy makers to shape a fair context for heating and cooling solutions.

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