The European Commission has published its first ever plan to tackle the massive amount of energy used to heat and cool Europe’s buildings, including households, offices, hospitals, schools, industry and food refrigeration throughout the supply chain.
Heating and cooling accounts for half of the EU’s annual overall energy consumption and 68% of all its gas imports. Meanwhile, renewables only account for 18% of energy in the sector and a large amount of energy is wasted by industry. Taking action to curb energy use and boost renewables in the sector would reduce energy costs, help cut our dependence on imported fossil fuels and slash harmful carbon emissions.
The Heating and Cooling Strategy includes plans to make energy efficient renovations to buildings easier, to develop energy efficiency guidelines for public schools and hospitals and improve the reliability of energy performance certificates for buildings.
The Strategy also aims to better integrate the electricity system with district heating and cooling systems. District heating and cooling networks can use and store electricity powered by renewables and then distribute it to buildings and industrial sites, boosting the level of renewable heating and cooling.
Meanwhile, the Strategy envisages raising the level of renewable energy used for heating and cooling through measures that will be announced in the upcoming reviews of both the renewable energy directive and the energy performance of buildings directive.
Another arm of the strategy is to slash energy waste in industry – enough heat is leaked into the air and water by industry to meet the EU’s entire heating demand in residential and service sector buildings. One way of tackling this problem is by linking industry with district heating systems – a practice already in place in Gothenburg where 90% of apartment blocks are heated with waste heat from nearby industrial plants and waste incinerators.
The Strategy also plans to boost consumer power. Owners, tenants, building managers and public authorities will see more information on how to renovate buildings and loop in more renewable power, and the potential benefits of doing so. Meanwhile, consumer control will increase with better metering and billing, and better technology for controlling energy use.