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Heating and cooling

Heating and cooling constitutes around half of the EU energy consumption.

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

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.

Accelerate the development of renewables

The 2018 Renewable Energy Directive ((EU) 2018/2001) introduces specific provisions to accelerate the development of renewables in heating and cooling, in particular by increasing policy prioritisation of this sector. These include indicative targets where each EU country must increase the share of renewables in heating and cooling by an indicative 1.1 percentage point every year, with a similar target for district heating and cooling.

The 2021 proposal for a review of the Renewable Energy Directive strengthened the heating and cooling target (Article 23), as well as the district heating and cooling target (Article 24). It also extends the measures EU countries can take to achieve these targets and includes specific provisions on integrating waste heat and cold and enhancing the heating and cooling sector’ role in energy system integration. In addition, the provisions on training and certification of heating and cooling systems’ installers (Article 18, Annex IV) and measures for integrating renewables in the EU building stock (new Article 15a), the largest heating and cooling end-use sector, were also strengthened.

EU Heating and Cooling Strategy

The 2016 EU Heating and Cooling Strategy provided a first overview of the energy consumption and fuel mix of the heating and cooling sector in the main end-use sectors: buildings and industry. It also set out actions and tools to ensure that the heating and cooling sector contributes to the EU objective of climate neutrality by 2050. These actions and tools, which were implemented in the Clean Energy for all Europeans’ Package adopted in 2019, relate to increasing renewable energy and energy efficiency in this sector, while applying in parallel an integrated approach to the energy system.

The EU renewable energy target has strong synergies with the EU energy efficiency targets and measures. The more energy is saved, the easier it is for EU countries and the EU to fulfil their renewable target. In addition, renewable heat sources (ambient and geothermal energy used mainly via heat pumps, solar thermal, etc.) provide low temperature heat (up to 200­° C), working most optimally with highly energy efficient well-insulated buildings or low temperature process heat (for example, breweries and food drying).

Comprehensive assessments

In line with Article 14 of the Energy Efficiency Directive (2012/27/EU), EU countries are requested to carry out a comprehensive assessment on efficient heating and cooling, and notify the European Commission once it has been done. Based on a request from the Commission, these assessments should be carried out every five years. The Member States were requested to submit their updated assessments by 31 December 2020.

The revised Annex VIII to the directive (amended by Delegated Regulation 2019/826/EU) describes the methodology for the assessments. Notably, the assessments have to comply with legislation on the energy union, and they must be closely linked with planning of policy measures to the Regulation on the governance of the energy union and climate action (EU/2018/1999).