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Lack of political ambition stymies energy switch in Europe's buildings – DecarbHeat

While EU leaders failed to agree on 2050 climate neutrality goals, thousands of citizens, together with governments and industry representatives took part in the EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW). One EUSEW event organized by a coalition of industry representatives, EU-funded projects and the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), united under the flag of the DecarbHeat Initiative expressed the readiness of industry but concern over the lack of political will for immediate action.

Panel discussions day three of EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) 2019 (photo courtesy EUSEW).

Panel discussions day three of EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) 2019 with Julien Dijol, Deputy Secretary General & Policy Coordinator, Housing. Europe (speaking) and Eva Hoos, (centre right) Policy Officer, Directorate General Energy, European. Commission (photo courtesy EUSEW).

Last week, EU leaders failed to agree on much-needed 2050 climate neutrality goals, with four Member States reluctant to find consensus and asking for a tailored assessment of each country’s economic needs and overall readiness before proceeding with an EU-wide agreement.

The outcome of the Council meeting of June 20, 2019, meeting creates frustration on all fronts. Gloomy warnings from the Intercontinental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), now months old, paint a landscape of disastrous consequences for our environment and health – worth the grimmest post-apocalyptic movie, including the loss of entire species and ecosystems, flooding and droughts.

Indeed, even the countries that opposed the agreement on climate change are experiencing life-threatening heat, driven by the global rise of temperatures.

Paradoxically, as the Member States struggled to find an agreement at the Council meeting, a three- day streak of events to stress the importance of accelerating an energy transition was taking place a few steps away. Thousands of citizens, together with governments and industry representatives have flooded the rooms of the EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) to join hundreds of events focusing on the urgency of tackling the climate crisis, showcasing an extraordinary array of strategies and technologies to activate a much-needed mitigation process.

Upgrading Europe’s heating and cooling infrastructure is key to this process:

  • 81 percent of Europe’s heating and cooling is still produced with non-renewable sources;
  • 52 percent of Europe’s heating and cooling is consumed within private and public buildings.

Replacing obsolete, polluting fossil fuel based technologies in buildings with modern efficient renewable sources based technologies such as geothermal, biomass stoves and boilers, solar panels and heat pumps in will lead to the decarbonisation of about half of Europe’s heating and cooling, preventing millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) from reaching the atmosphere and aggravating the climate crisis.

A large EUSEW event organized by a coalition of industry representatives, EU- funded projects and the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), brought together industry representatives, united under the flag of the DecarbHeat initiative, was held on June 20, 2019, to call for the immediate decarbonization of heating and cooling in Europe’s buildings’as a key measure to reach the 2050 goals.

Insisting on the preparedness of the industry on one side, the worrying lack of political ambition on the other, Jean-Marc Jossart, Secretary General of Bioenergy Europe, one of the organisations behind the DecarbHeat initiative said that “the recent impasse at the Council serves as a crystal clear window onto the real obstacles to decarbonization: beyond financing and investment costs, the lack of political ambition is the most discouraging sign of how everyone seems to be ready for the transition, except for some national leaders”.

Representatives from the cities of Vienna, Austria, and Antwerp, Belgium stressed the importance of local governments actions for decarbonizing heating and cooling networks and provided an overview of their achievements and plans, underlining the need to involve all local stakeholders, companies and citizens, to succeed.

EU funded projects PLANHEAT , HOTMAPS and RELaTED, present at the event, offer solutions that can support cities and regions in this direction. Software developed by HOTMAPS and PLANHEAT can assist cities and regions in their heating and cooling planning, while RELaTED is developing an innovative ultra-low temperature concept for thermal district energy networks. Such tools and solutions are part of an integrated, holistic approach to decarbonize the sector.

Paul Voss, Head of Euroheat & Power, a network of district energy organizations and professionals striving for sustainable heating and cooling, suggested that inspiration could be taken from the case of electricity in Europe: ‘‘What lessons can be learned from the power sector when it comes to decarbonizing heating and cooling? The fact that creating the right policy pressure is essential!’

All stakeholders present at the event agreed on the urgency of decarbonizing the building sector. An integrated approach, bringing together different technologies and calibrating the contribution of each according to the local specificities, while allowing citizens better access to information on how to make the right investments for them and their environment, stimulating financing and taking advantage of legislation on building renovations are key to achieve decarbonization.

Without the right political and legislative signals, however, all efforts risk to be crippled – Europeans can’t afford any more indecisions.

About Decarbheat

The Decarb Heat Initiative has been launched by Bioenergy Europe, COGEN Europe, European Heat Pump Association (EHPA), Euroheat & Power, European Geothermal Energy Council (EGEC), European Partnership for Energy and the Environment (EPEE) and Solar Heat Europe/ESTIF.

DecarbHeat brings together major players of the heat and cooling (H&C) industry behind one clear vision: a carbon neutral, efficient European H&C sector by 2050. In order to modernise Europe’s H&C supply, DecarbHeat advocate for massively deploying cutting-edge local renewable and energy efficient H&C solutions across Europe’s economy.

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