IEA analyst: A heating and cooling target ‘could make a big difference’

Date: 03/04/2018

Factors like cheaper installation costs and appliances mean that renewables will be hard-pressed to outdo natural gas in heating. But systems like district heating could help level the playing field.

As talks on the EU’s renewable energy rules resume, one of the main talking points is how to decarbonise the heating sector, and deploy technologies like heat pumps and district heating. The International Energy Agency’s Ute Collier told EURACTIV in an interview that the task is complex and difficult.

Ute Collier is senior programme leader at the International Energy Agency’s renewables division. She is the author of the 2018 publication, Renewable heat policies: Delivering clean heat solutions for the energy transition.

She spoke to EURACTIV’s energy and environment reporter, Sam Morgan.

You are the author of a new International Energy Agency report on heat policies. What are its main aims?

We do renewable energy market reporting here at the IEA that looks at the global power sector, heating and cooling, and the transport sector, on an annual basis. Clearly, heating and cooling is globally significant. But heat data is not actually collected in our data sets so we have to make a lot of assumptions.

My report was focused on what is actually driving the deployment of heating technologies like heat pumps. Also, what kind of policies are countries using and how effective are they?

In the EU, there is a fair amount of information because of the renewable energy directive, but in this report, I decided to look a little bit beyond Europe, which is where it becomes quite interesting.

Sometimes it’s difficult to get information from places like China and the US, but they are the two largest heat consumers globally.

How does the EU compare to the rest of the world?

When you do comparisons on a regional basis like this, the EU does end up looking good, in terms of percentage of renewable heat.

But that actually tells us very little. Within the EU, we have leaders like Sweden, which has 70% renewable heat, while places like the UK and the Netherlands really lag behind.

Obviously, there are factors like local infrastructure and conditions in play. Take somewhere like Malta, which clearly has different requirements to the Nordic countries.

And it’s not just about space heating either, as disparities in industrial heating needs are obviously dependent on what a country produces. It’s a more complex task than just looking at the power sector. In this paper, I try to group countries to make the comparison a little more worthwhile.

Read rest of interview here: