by Linda Bertelsen
Green City with District Heating

Today’s energy security crisis is a heating crisis. This is a message that bears repeating. The challenges we face are unprecedented: heating and cooling account for 50% of EU energy demand, with natural gas supplying a stunning 42% of the heating and cooling demand. Luckily, most of Europe’s gas is used for low-temperature heating in buildings, which can be replaced with existing technologies. But are we up to the job?

By Aurélie Beauvais, Managing Director, Euroheat & Power

In the Brussels corridors, there is a rumour that “renewable energy is freedom energy.” It couldn’t be more accurate, as renewable electricity sources such as wind and solar are growing exponentially and provide a solid boost to decarbonise heating, notably through residential and large-scale heat pumps.  

Recent EU energy and climate initiatives (such as the ‘Fitfor55’ package and REPower EU) mainly focused on supporting the deployment of renewable electricity sources and their molecule-based twin, renewable hydrogen. However, it is only a part of the solution: in 2019, electricity represented only 6% of household energy consumption for heating. So what about the remaining 94%? [1]

Before the crisis, we had the luxury of time to wonder what would be the cleanest and most efficient heating sources to decarbonise fully by 2050. However, the situation has changed drastically, and while the demand for clean heating technologies has never been higher, we must now satisfy four additional imperatives.

First, we need solutions that can achieve a quick and sizeable reduction in gas demand for heating, either by increasing efficiency or replacing fossil fuels-based heating. Second, these solutions must be mature, reality-proofed, and available for fast-rolling over the next 3 to 5 years.

Third, the clean heating solutions ‘we’re looking at should address the short-term imperative to break free from gas dependency and be aligned with ‘Europe’s long-term pathways toward climate neutrality. Last, the solutions that will complement our “energy crisis exit toolbox” must be fair and leave no one behind.

We must insist on this last bit: this crisis is a social bomb in the making. Energy bills are soaring, and EU SMEs and companies are putting their activities on hold across Europe. The EU unity is already being torn apart by the current economic crisis and rising social discontent. For the future of Europe, we must ensure that we support not only solutions that are “good on paper” but solutions that will work for everyone, every region, and wallet.

The challenge is immense but not impossible. There are solutions available that can be immediately deployed to phase-out fossil fuels in heating. These solutions are locally owned, climate-friendly, ready to deploy, and affordable. We can harvest local renewable and sustainable waste heat sources by deploying and expanding efficient heating networks. We can also deploy clean heating technologies such as heat pumps.

In short, we can deliver concrete results to save gas, shield European consumers from soaring energy prices and strengthen the resilience of our energy system. Still, the first six months since the presentation of the REPower EU have passed, and too little has been done to make this happen.

On the 18th of October, ten organisations united under the leadership of Euroheat & Power proposed a 10-point plan to accelerate the EU heat transition. The plan covers a range of measures, some of which may be integrated into the next batch of EU emergency measures. These include mandatory heat planning for local authorities, the EU-wide phase-out of individual boilers that use only fossil fuels, or even dedicated incentives to recover sustainable waste-heat sources which remain untapped in several urban areas.

The 10-point plan also underlines the necessity for a new EU heating and cooling strategy with concrete regulatory and financial instruments to unlock the full potential of renewable and sustainable waste-heat solutions in heating networks.

This crisis has become the perfect “energy storm” to accelerate the uptake of smart and sustainable district heating and cooling technologies in Europe. Now is the time to upgrade our emergency toolbox with concrete measures to spark a long-overdue clean heating revolution, bringing Europe on the path to climate neutrality and energy independence.

A 10 Point Plan to accelerate the EU heat transition

[1] Source: Odyssee-mure

A 10 point plan to accelerate the EU heat transition” was published in Hot Cool, edition no. 7/2022
A 10 points plan to accelerate the EU heat transition, by Aurélie Beauvais
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Meet the author

Aurélie Beauvais
Managing Director, Euroheat & Power