Almost half of the energy consumed in Europe is used for heating and cooling. Much of this energy is imported and adds to the union´s huge energy import bill that totals between 200 and 400 billion euros annually. Thus the heating and cooling sector is one of the major contributors to CO2 emissions and much money could be saved from a more efficient use of energy in this sector.
EU energy ministers recently discussed main barriers to an effective heating and cooling market, the possible role of district heating and cooling, as well as access to financing.
Sabine Froning, Director European Affairs and Policy Management at Vattenfall, says “With our experience, we can help realise the EU ambitions of a low-carbon heat and cooling sector. Vattenfall is one of the largest district heating suppliers in the EU and this business is one of our growth areas. Political praise for the technology and a supportive regulatory framework are essential to maintain profitability and expand this business.”
Expansion of district heating
One way of increasing energy efficiency in the heating sector is an expansion of district heating. District heating uses heating networks where heat is supplied by a central source through a network of pipes carrying hot water. This system is common in many European countries but almost negligible in others. An example is the UK where heat networks count for less than two per cent of the heat demand.
“Heat networks are needed in order to replace the direct use of fossil fuels in densely populated areas with renewables and surplus heat recycled from other processes such as manufacturing or data centres. Heat networks also provide additional flexibility to the electricity grid which facilitates the introduction of more renewables. CHPs can for example support the grid when the feed-in from renewables is low. Heat storage and large scale boilers can make use of wind power at times when the production exceeds the demand.”
“Thinking in terms of climate-neutral districts rather than single buildings could unlock huge potentials. The strategy should therefore look at how to best combine energy saving measures in buildings with efficient heating solutions at district level,” says Froning.
Decreased import demand
Gas used for heating in the EU accounts for two thirds of the EU’s entire gas consumption. A lot of it is imported and thus exposes the Union to risk when it comes to energy supply.
“A more efficient heating sector would also decrease the demand for gas imports and dampen the impacts of any future gas crisis,” says Sabine Froning.
The conclusions of the energy ministers serve as input to the Commission to use when it prepares the future EU energy policy.