Renewable Heating & Cooling
Until a few years ago, the renewable energy policy debate and legislation focused almost exclusively on electricity and transport fuels. Renewables for heating and cooling (RES-H&C) were largely neglected. In most EU Member States, there is not yet a comprehensive approach to support RES-H. As a result, growth in this sector has been rather sluggish compared to the growth rates achieved in the renewable electricity and transport sectors. Still in terms of the overall amount renewables heating plays a major role today and in future.
Every year, over 40% of the total energy consumed in Europe is used for the generation of heat for either domestic or industrial purposes. The vast majority of this energy is produced through the combustion of fossil fuels such as oil, gas and coal – with an impressive environmental impact in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. Today the social, natural and economic costs of climate change highlight the urgency of moving towards a new and more sustainable energy scenario. For all these reasons policy makers, investors and citizens are realising that the time for heating and cooling from renewable energy sources has come.
Initially, the European Commission had planned to react to this strong call by proposing a specific directive, but then decided to change its approach and announced in January 2007 to instead put forward a Framework Directive on renewable energy covering heating and cooling together with the electricity and transport sectors, what would later become the Renewable Energy Directive (RES Directive). The European performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) was also recast in 2009.
According to EREC’s previous estimates, 25 % of the EU heating and cooling supply can be provided by renewables by 2020, if the EU sets the right policy framework in due time. EREC now estimates that RES-H&C will reach a share of almost 30% of total heat consumption by 2020 and cover more than half of the EU´s heat demand by 2030. By 2050 renewable heating and cooling will provide 100% of the consumption assumed in the “2050 Scenario” (see section Future Energy Policy – 2050). To achieve that, measures such as removal of administrative barriers, awareness raising and improved statistics need to be put in place. Regulations supporting the use of renewable energies for heating and cooling purposes such as – for instance- a renewable heat obligation could also be implemented.
The European Strategic Energy Technology (SET) Plan – proposed by the European Commission in order to accelerate the deployment of low-carbon energy technologies – recognises the essential role of renewable energy sources for heating and cooling as a part of the EU’s strategy to improve the security of the energy supplies and to foster a competitive edge in the related highly innovative industries.
The European Technology Platform on Renewable Heating & Cooling (RHC-Platform) brings together stakeholders from the biomass, geothermal and solar thermal sector - including the related industries - to define a common strategy for increasing the use of renewable energy technologies for heating and cooling.
Building on the experience matured since 2005 within the European Solar Thermal Technology Platform (ESTTP), now incorporated in the RHC-Platform, four major European organisations – EUREC, AEBIOM, EGEC and ESTIF – are leading the process towards the definition of a joint Vision and Strategic Research Agenda for the renewable heating and cooling sector.
Mission of the RHC-Platform
The European Technology Platform on Renewable Heating and Cooling, officially endorsed by the European Commission since October 2008, aims to play a decisive role in maximising synergies and strengthening efforts towards research, development and technological innovation which will consolidate Europe’s leading position in the sector.
The RHC-Platform directs its efforts toward the coordination of European, national, regional and local research, development and deployment programmes and initiatives in the renewable heating and cooling sector.
The main objectives of the RHC-Platform are:
- Defining the overall common Vision for the short-, medium- and long-term evolution of renewable energy systems for heating and cooling in Europe. This crucial document presents the expected market penetration and technological evolution by 2020 and beyond.
- Setting up the shared Strategic Research Agenda (SRA) which analyses both technological research and strategic priorities to maintain Europe’s scientific and industrial leadership in the renewable heating and cooling sector.
- Establish and implement a roadmap for the large scale development and deployment of renewable heating and cooling systems, including as well actions to harmonise Europe’s training and education, whilst renewing its research infrastructures.
The RHC-Platform aims to acts as a catalyst for establishing effective public-private partnerships and provides a qualified interface between the EU and Member States for coherent research policy development and consistent programme planning and implementation. It will also help to develop awareness of the role of renewable energy technologies in Europe’s low carbon energy mix and foster co-operation, both within the EU and at global scale.
For more information, please visit the RHC Platform website.