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Fossil fuels still dominate the European heat and cooling sector

In 2018, 79 percent of energy sources used in the European heating and cooling (H&C) sector came from fossil fuels. A failure to accept the degree to which inefficient and old heating systems and a high dependency on fossil fuels contribute to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, has the potential to affect the ability of the EU to deliver on its future climate objectives, according to a new Bioenergy Europe report on bioheat.

In 2018, 79 percent of energy sources used in the European heating and cooling (H&C) sector came from fossil fuel sources. A failure to accept the degree to which inefficient and old heating systems and a high dependency on fossil fuels contribute to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, has the potential to affect the ability of the EU to deliver on its future climate objectives, according to a new Bioenergy Europe report on bioheat (graphic courtesy Bioenergy Europe).

For the second time since its launch in 2007, the 2020 Statistical Report published by Bioenergy Europe (previously known as AEBIOM) is being split into different publications, each chapter one covering a different aspect of bioenergy. Bioenergy Europe has released the fourth chapter of its Statistical Report 2020 focusing on biomass for heat.

The significance of heat and cooling overlooked

According to Bioenergy Europe, the “inherent link” between the heat and cooling (H&C) sector and European decarbonization has too often been overlooked. A failure to accept the degree to which inefficient and old heating systems – when combined with a high dependency on fossil fuels – contribute to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, has the potential to affect the ability of the EU to deliver on its future climate objectives.

Bioenergy Europe’s Bioheat Statistical Report 2020, highlights that the National Energy and Climate Plans of European Member States set the average renewable energy source (RES) share in the sector for 2030 at 40 percent. While this represents a significant increase from the current share of 19.7 percent, to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, the 2030 targets should be revised upwards.

The recast Renewable Energy Directive (RED II) additionally includes a soft target that aims to drive the penetration of renewables in the heating and cooling sector. However, almost no Member State seems to have taken the required 1.3 percent per annum annual increment when calculating their 2030 objectives.

The recast Renewable Energy Directive (RED II) additionally includes a soft target that aims to drive the penetration of renewables in the heating and cooling sector. However, almost no Member State seems to have taken the required 1.3% per annum annual increment when calculating their 2030 objectives (graphic courtesy Bioenergy Europe).

Therefore, in line with the provisions of the European Green Deal, there is an “indisputable need” for higher renewable energy solutions penetration and increased energy efficiency of European heating and cooling systems.

Biomass affordable, efficient, and readily available

The EU and its Member States must implement concrete measures that disincentivize fossil fuel usage, encourage the growth of the renewable sector, and ultimately stimulate the energy transition. Without this, it is unlikely that the Member States will reach its long-term climate commitments, Bioenergy Europe says.

An affordable, efficient and readily available renewable resource, biomass has proved itself to be an effective solution for residential heating, derived heat, and industrial processes. The Statistical Report 2020 found that since 2000, it has grown on average nearly 3 percent per annum.

Moreover, in 2018 bioenergy accounted for 85 percent of renewable heat consumption in Europe. With 49 percent of bioheat consumed in the residential sector, it is small and medium appliances that dominate, with their modernization, correct maintenance, and installation becoming key to curbing air emissions.

District heating networks are of equal importance to smart sector integration, as they not only increase energy efficiency but allow access for low carbon sources. Remarkably, the report finds that 99 percent of renewable heat used by industry comes from biomass, demonstrating that bioenergy is fundamental in aiding the transition of industry to carbon-neutral energy systems.

In 2018, industry represented 16% of the final energy consumption of heat in the EU, with only 13% of this from renewables, and almost entirely bioenergy – 99%(graphic courtesy Bioenergy Europe).

Phase-out fossil fuel subsidies

The Statistical Report on Bioheat sets out a number of essential recommendations for policymakers to move forward by focusing primarily on prioritizing European decarbonisation through a switch for renewable heating solutions, like bioenergy.

Fossil fuel subsidies must be phased out and replaced with the promotion of biomass district heating and a “holistic” carbon price that covers non-ETS sectors. Furthermore, the building refurbishment and “renovation wave” needs to support and promote the replacement and modernization of old and inefficient residential installations with modern, high-quality biomass appliances.

A switch of this nature is not only energy-efficient, but Bioenergy Europe also suggests that it improves local air quality while simultaneously propelling Europe towards a carbon-neutral society by 2050.

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