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Renewable heating and cooling essential for EU’s climate and green recovery goals

Responding to the European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen's State of the Union address, the European solar heating, and cooling sector welcomes the European Union’s increased ambition regarding the bloc's common climate commitments and stresses the need for faster deployment of renewable heating and cooling solutions.
"We believe that 55 percent is the absolute minimum that the Members States need to agree to” stated Pedro Dias, Secretary-General of Solar Heat Europe.

Pedro Dias, Secretary-General, Solar Heat Europe (right) here seen with Jean-Marc Jossart, Secretary-General Bioenergy Europe (left), and Thomas Nowak, Secretary-General, European Heat Pump Association (EHPA) in a panel discussion during the European Bioenergy Future conference held November 2017.

In her State of the European Union address on September 16, European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen presented the European Commission’s proposal for higher ambition, stressing the EU’s commitment to the Paris Agreement, while reiterating the relevance of the European Green Deal and the Next Generation EU initiatives as part of the new growth strategy for Europe.

As President von der Leyen mentioned, what is good for the climate, is good for business, it is good for us all. Our sector is a clear example that it is possible to create simultaneously value for the climate and the economy, creating jobs and generating exports, while providing a solution that is clean, competitive, and an example in terms of circularity stated Costas Travasaros, President of Solar Heat Europe.

Higher targets for climate and renewable heat

We believe that 55 percent is the absolute minimum that the Members States need to agree to. This commitment must prioritise higher and mandatory targets for direct renewable heat, said Pedro Dias, Secretary-General of Solar Heat Europe.

According to the trade association, the heating and cooling sector represents 51 percent of final energy consumption in Europe and approximately 27 percent of EU carbon emissions. As such, decarbonising this sector is crucial for European carbon neutrality goals and renewable heat solutions are key in making that happen.

We support the idea that stronger measures are needed to bring us from the 41 percent that the Member States have pledged in their National Energy and Climate Plans, to 55 percent the President von der Leyen proposed. This can be done with higher ambition in terms of having more efficient renewable heat, such as solar thermal, in our buildings, and our industry, Pedro Dias said.

Renovation Wave

Space and water heating represent 75 percent of energy consumption in European homes. Considering that buildings account for more than one-third of Europe’s emissions, it is essential to reduce their demand with energy efficiency measures and to supply the needs with renewable solutions, such as solar heat.

This shall be an essential element of the Renovation Wave, as well as of the new European Bauhaus as mentioned by von der Leyen in her address.

Currently, there are over 10 million solar thermal systems operating in European households and businesses with a total energy generation of 25.6 TWh thermal. All these solar heating systems include thermal energy storage, to an overall capacity of 180 GWh. This combination of solar heat and thermal storage is essential for future buildings in Europe.

Furthermore, the supply of district heating with renewable heat is an efficient way to decarbonise the heat supply in many European cities. If the right measures to promote a fast-paced transition are put in place, the number of households benefitting from sustainable solar heat can grow more than threefold in the next decade.

Sustainable Industry

Process heat represents more than 60 percent of energy use in the European manufacturing industry and solar heating already presents innovative solutions for several industrial sectors, as the food and beverage industry or the pulp and paper industry.

Solar Heat Europe points out that the decarbonisation of industry is “inevitable”, though it needs to be sped up to be in line with the climate targets. The European Green Deal needs to incentivise change in the European industry: with the right instruments in place, decarbonisation can be sped up while supporting the competitiveness of European companies.

European solar thermal industry pledge

Solar process heat solutions have been growing in number and size, reaching new records every year and the sector can deliver a much larger number of solutions all over Europe. In this regard, the financing support related to Next Generation EU can provide an essential push for new investments in this area.

The sector welcomes the allocation of 37 percent of Next Generation EU budget on the European Green Deal objectives and offers options and solutions for decarbonisation all over Europe. While Denmark is a world leader in solar district heating, Cyprus presents the highest number of solar thermal systems per capita.

The potential and the commitment of the solar thermal heating and cooling sector is reflected in a common pledge stating its commitment to a ‘Green Recovery’. This pledge gathers more than 200 entities from 28 European countries.

We want to demonstrate that the European solar thermal industry is ready to do its part in bringing about an economic recovery in line with Europe’s energy and climate targets. Our sector has been contributing to a sustainable green transition over the past decades. We, therefore, welcome this commitment from the European Union to pursue higher ambitions, ended Costas Travasaros.

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