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Heat sector 'can be entirely decarbonised by 2050'

Two European Commission documents aimed at shaping future environmental policies have prompted a group of European renewable heating and cooling associations to criticise plans to decarbonise buildings.
Commenting on the two European Commission documents published on 8 March 2011 'A roadmap for moving to a competitive low carbon economy in 2050' (DG CLIM) and the 'Energy Efficiency Plan' (DG ENER), the European Renewable Heating and Cooling associations (AEBIOM, EGEC, EUBIA and ESTIF) of the biomass, geothermal and solar thermal sectors, have expressed regret that these documents, which will shape European energy policy, underestimate the contribution of renewable heat technologies.

Xavier Noyon, the Secretary General of the European Solar Thermal Industry Federation (ESTIF), quoted in Solar Magazine online said: 'The 100% renewable Re-thinking 2050 scenario (EREC 2010) clearly shows that heating and cooling in buildings, in district heating and in process heat can be entirely decarbonised via a combined approach of energy efficiency and renewable heat.'

Philippe Dumas, manager of the European Geothermal Energy Council (EGEC), added: 'The heat sector represents almost half of the EU's final energy consumption, i.e. in 2010, 47% of all energy consumed in Europe was in a form of heat. Nevertheless, the decarbonisation of the heat sector receives little attention amongst policy makers. These documents will have a strong influence on upcoming energy policy and both contain only a few minor references to heat in general and renewable heat in particular; not to mention the omission of a single reference to the geothermal sector.'

While the Energy Efficiency Plan recognises that most of the energy consumed in the EU (i.e. 83% in buildings) is used for heating, cooling and hot water purposes, and the Low Carbon Roadmap states that 'the built environment provides low-cost and short-term opportunities to reduce emissions, first and foremost through improvement of the energy performance of buildings'.

The associations emphasise that the two documents fail to acknowledge that renewable heat technologies provide market-ready, efficient and completely carbon free energy solutions which deserve more political attention. 'More worryingly, the Low Carbon roadmap contains a statement on the potential of electricity to cover heat demand. This focus on a single technology is at the expense of entirely renewable heat technologies, and ignores the poor energy efficiency and higher cost of direct electricity use for heating purposes.'

The renewable heating and cooling industry associations (AEBIOM, EGEC, ESTIF and EUBIA) are members of EREC - the Renewable Energy Council. They have contributed to the Re-Thinking 2050 published by EREC in 2010.
11 March 2011

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