In February 2016, the European Commission presented its newly established Heating and Cooling Strategy. This is the first EU initiative to comprehensively address the energy used for heating and cooling in buildings and industry, which accounts for 50% of the EU's annual energy consumption. By making this sector smarter, more efficient and sustainable, energy imports and the EU’s dependency on them will fall, and both costs and CO2 emissions will be reduced. The strategy is a key action of the Energy Union Framework Strategy and will contribute to improving the EU's energy security and to addressing the post-COP 21 climate agenda.
Currently, renewables are not widely used in the sector: Natural gas is the largest primary energy source for heating and cooling (46%), followed by coal (about 15%), biomass (about 11%), fuel oil (10%), nuclear energy (7%) and some renewable energy sources (wind, PV and hydro, about 5%). Other renewables like solar (thermal) energy, ambient heat and geothermal energy account for 1.5% altogether and other fossil fuels for 4%. Overall, renewable energy accounts for 18% of primary energy consumption in the heating and cooling sector and there is a significant potential to increase its share. Moreover, the amount of heat produced from industrial processes and wasted in the atmosphere or into water in the EU is estimated to be enough to cover the EU's entire heating needs in residential and tertiary buildings.
Given the EU's climate goals, the demand for heating and cooling should fall by 42% to 56% by 2050, with a commensurate reduction in CO2 emissions. The EU Heating and Cooling Strategy identifies actions in the following areas:
- Making it easier to renovate buildings;
- Increasing the share of renewables;
- Reuse of energy waste from industry;
- Getting consumers and industries involved.
The implementation of the strategy will bring benefits to all, and more specifically:
- To EU citizens: who will benefit from better living conditions, comfort and health, a better environment, and reduced expenditure on heating.
- To workers: the manufacture and installation of equipment and materials that are energy efficient and based on renewable energy are labour-intensive activities that, on average, may create twice as many jobs as the manufacture and installation of conventional energy generation equipment.
- To industry: energy costs could be reduced by 4-10% with investments that can pay for themselves in less than 5 years.
In the long term, Europe wants to decarbonise its building stock by 2050: this means that Europe would save around EUR 40 billion on gas imports and EUR 4.7 billion on oil imports per year. The EU’s CO2 emissions would be reduced by 30% and citizens' expenditure on heating and cooling their homes and buildings would be lowered by 70%. Air pollution from heating and cooling would be reduced by more than 90%, eliminating related health problems. For example, the new EU Energy Label and Ecodesign Regulation for boilers, showing efficiency ratings for the first time, is estimated to save 600 TWh of energy and cut CO2 emissions by 135 million tonnes by 2030.
Industry can move in the same direction by taking advantage of the economic case for efficiency and new technical solutions. It is estimated that industry could reduce its energy consumption by 4-5% in 2030 and 8-10% in 2050 just by implementing commercially viable and available solutions. The share of renewable energies would reach 30% and breakthrough technologies would help industries to decarbonise while making production processes 30-50% less energy intensive.
The transition towards a low-carbon heating and cooling system requires action from all actors involved. The strategy refers to various types of actions, including:
1. Legislative reviews of:
- The Energy Efficiency Directive, the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive and the Smart Financing for Smart Buildings Initiative in 2016;
- The New Electricity Market Design and the proposal for a Renewable Energy Framework in 2016.
2. A series of non-legislative actions including:
- Developing a toolbox of measures to facilitate renovation in multi-apartment buildings;
- Promoting proven energy efficiency models for publicly-owned educational buildings and hospitals;
- Extending the work of the BUILD UP skills campaign to improve training for building professionals, in particular through a new module for energy experts and architects.
European Commission - Fact Sheet - Towards a smart, efficient and sustainable heating and cooling sector http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-16-311_en.htm