Heating and cooling accounts for approximately half of the energy consumption in the European Union (EU) and are areas with big improvement potential.
On 16 February, the European Commission presented their strategy to reduce energy consumption for heating and cooling of private homes, industry and public buildings. The recommendations focus on increased building renovation, renewable energy, utilisation of excess heat from industrial processes, customer involvement, options for district heating systems and to reap “the benefits of integrating heating and cooling into the electricity system”.
Combined heat and power (CHP) plants and district heating could play a major role in urban areas.
“CHP provides considerable savings of fossil primary energy sources – up to 30 per cent – compared to uncoupled generation of electricity and heat. By increased utilisation of renewables, the energy savings will be even higher,” says Olaf Litwiakow, Head of Policy Management Heat at Vattenfall. CHP plants which simultaneously produce heat and electricity, are a highly efficient technique used by Vattenfall in cities like Uppsala, Berlin, Hamburg or Amsterdam.
Renewable heat to city centres
Today’s individual boilers are still predominant in most European cities, showing poor efficiency. Renewable energy and waste heat are rarely used. Half of Europe´s heat demand is in areas where population density is high enough for district heating infrastructure and could cover 40-70 per cent of the EU heat demand, according to the European Commission’s analysis. Integrating particularly wind power with district heating systems could be a way forward to reach the European overall decarbonisation target.
“District heating, high-efficient CHP and heat storages with electric boilers, which use excess electricity from renewables like wind power, offer substantial potential to bring ‘renewable heat’ to the city centres,” says Olaf Litwiakow. “Additionally, it provides flexibility and security of supply to the electricity system.”
Heating and cooling is local business
Nevertheless, fossil-fuelled, particularly individual gas-fired boilers, still take the lion’s share of space heating and hot water in Europe.
“With a view to achieve European climate and energy targets, mineral oil and other fossil energy sources should be gradually phased out from the space-heating market in Europe. The concrete implementation of the Heating and Cooling Strategy could offer interesting opportunities for Vattenfall’s heat business,” says Olaf Litwiakow, adding “But the devil is always in the details”, as he concludes:
“The EU Member States need to consider effective measures and incentives for investments in energy efficiency, district heating and renewables for heating purposes. They need to be appropriately designed to fit with the specific market conditions, because heating and cooling is a local business.”
The measures proposed by the European strategy on heating and cooling will be implemented via the existing European Directives on energy efficiency, renewable energy and buildings. These directives will be reviewed in 2016 and 2017.