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Keep heat in – new Commission must decarbonise Europe’s heating system first

Ursula von der Leyen’s climate agenda is ambitious and challenging. In her political guidelines, she outlines plans for a just transition for all, and it all makes sense: Europe shall become a world-leader in the circular economy, measures must be taken to encourage green financing, ecosystems must be protected and pollution must be dialled down to as low as zero. It is within the residential sector that the greatest potential for decarbonisation lies as Bioenergy Europe's bioheat report shows.

According to data from Eurostat analyzed by Bioenergy Europe and presented in a policy brief for its 2019 Report on Biomass for Heat, the consumption of bioheat is growing steadily across all sectors. In 2017, bioheat represented 86,6 percent of the total renewable heat consumption, making bioenergy a key driver in the decarbonization of the heating sector. More and more households, industries, district heating networks, and buildings are relying on biomass, a very innovative and dynamic market that has been growing by an average of 3,2 percent every year since 2000. With the right political support, bioheat could provide decarbonized heat and allow Member States to meet their long-term climate objectives says Bioenergy Europe (graphic courtesy Bioenergy Europe).

Ursula von der Leyen’s climate agenda is ambitious and challenging. She is to stand the pressure of tackling a global climate crisis that gets worse by the day and that requires a political leadership ready to do everything in its power to slow the damage down.

In her political guidelines, she outlines plans for a just transition for all, and it all makes sense: Europe shall become a world-leader in circular economy, measures must be taken to encourage green financing, ecosystems must be protected and pollution must be dialled down to as low as zero.

As for slashing emissions, her conviction that more ambitious targets for 2030 are needed is reassuring, as she committed to increasing the EU target for 2030 towards 55 percent.

Bioenergy Europe points out that the commitment behind such ambition raises questions of equally astounding magnitude: how will she get there? Industries seem to be a priority of her guidelines, as she plans a new industrial strategy, highlights Europe’s steely traits of a prominent industrial economy and emphasizes the importance of decarbonising energy-intensive industries.

Residential heat decarbonisation has greatest potential

However, it is within the residential sector that the greatest potential for decarbonisation lies. Residential heating is dominated by fossil fuels (shy of 80 percent), is the largest slice of Europe’s annual energy bill, and space heating is responsible for 53 percent of such bill.

Renewable technologies are not contributing enough, but among these, biomass is the undisputed leader with an 87 percent share. At the EU scale, biomass accounted for 20 percent of the overall residential heating consumption in 2017.

Industrial heating processes, with a 32 percent share in the bill, are too “in dire need” for decarbonisation, and Bioenergy Europe admits that further R&D is needed when it comes to high-heat industrial needs.

Nonetheless, among other benefits bioenergy, due to its competitiveness and technical characteristics such as non-intermittency and high-temperature levels, can be a tailored-fit solution to such needs.

Report on biomass for heat

Within its six wishes for the new president-elect, Bioenergy Europe has recently stressed the importance of tackling the issues of Europe’s dirty heating sector. Among other measures, industry stakeholders call for political leadership that will with resolve accelerate the replacement of old, polluting heating technologies with modern, highly efficient renewable ones.

In order to better understand the intricacies of Europe’s heating system, Bioenergy Europe has launched its “2019 Report on Biomass for Heat“, with comprehensive data on renewable heat and the different energy sources in EU28, the types of biomass used for bioheat in 2018, which sectors contribute the most to Europe’s heat consumption to mention a few.

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