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New studies look closer at decarbonising heating and cooling sector

The European Commission has published four studies that look at different aspects of the decarbonisation of heating and cooling in the EU. Roughly half of the energy consumed at present in Europe is used for heating and cooling, and most of it is based on fossil fuels.

The process of replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy sources and other zero-carbon solutions in these sectors has so far been slower than in electricity generation, as renewables currently provide only 23% of that consumption (Eurostat 2020).

Heating and cooling constitutes around half of the EU energy consumption. Image credit: Ready Made | Pexels

Heating and cooling constitutes around half of the EU energy consumption. Image credit: Ready Made | Pexels

Renewable energy in heating and cooling is supported by a variety of legislation and tools. The central role of heating and cooling in energy transition has also been recognised under the European Green Deal’s Climate Target Plan and the ‘Fit for 55’ package, as without increasing renewable energy shares in this large sector, the EU’s energy and climate targets cannot be achieved cost-effectively.

Consequently, shifting this sector towards the use of renewable energy has the potential to make a significant contribution to decarbonising the energy system and achieving the EU’s energy and climate targets for 2030 – and ultimately its goal to become climate-neutral by 2050.

The EU is already addressing the decarbonisation of heating and cooling through several legal instruments – in particular through the renewable energy directive. However, progress on national and EU policy on this sector is often hampered by the lack of robust data and little knowledge of the specifics of market and regulatory frameworks – all of which are necessary to develop cost-effective decarbonisation pathways and measures.

The aim of these four studies is to fill this knowledge gap and support the implementation of existing EU law by providing comprehensive and in-depth analyses of key aspects of the heating and cooling sector.

The different aspects can be described as follows:

A study on a roadmap on policy support for heating and cooling decarbonisation sets out an analysis and recommendations for policies covering space heating in buildings and process heating in industry. It offers a comprehensive overview of existing knowledge by including a full review of key literature.

A study on renewable space heating presents a comprehensive overview of consumption data, technologies, fuel mix and regulatory frameworks. It includes best practices for renewable energy communities, while also modelling possible decarbonisation pathways.

study on district heating and cooling in the EU describes existing market and regulatory frameworks and presents ten case studies to illustrate successful models to integrate renewable energy and waste heat sources into heating and cooling networks. The study includes seven annexes, including information about the case studies and the technical and operational requirements (Annex 6 and 7).

study on renewable cooling provides a detailed overview of the EU cooling market and contains the background analysis for the Delegated Act on the methodology to account renewable energy used in cooling and district cooling, adopted in December 2021.