Renewables’ advocates call for the diversification of heating technologies.
Renewable heating and combined solutions using solar thermal with heat pumps, geothermal or solar PVs, are largely missing from the strategy for reaching a target of 90% net carbon emissions reductions by 2040, renewables’ representatives said in reaction to Tuesday’s (6 February) announcement by the European Commission.
Bioenergy Europe, Solar Heat Europe, and the Voice of Geothermal in Europe (EGEC) voiced broad support for the target during a briefing, but said reliance on use of heat pumps alone – as promoted in the EU executive’s proposal – would be a “major mistake”.
Solar Heat Europe claimed that while data showed residential buildings are responsible for roughly 80% of EU households energy needs, including space and water heating, only 1.5% is currently covered by solar thermal.
“Hybrid systems can also be a solution to address decarbonisation — it’s the potential of these solutions combined that we feel is overlooked or not fully reflected [in the strategy],” said Pedro Dias, head of policy at Solar Heat Europe, told the briefing.
Dias regretted the lack of “projections on heat in the [commission’s] impact assessment” while efforts are being channeled to “solutions that are not proven yet”.
Jean-Marc Jossart, secretary general of Bioenergy Europe, called for a “pragmatic approach” to achieve the 2040 target, noting biomass’ affordability, efficiency, and widespread availability as a renewable source for residential heating, district heating, and industrial processes.
Sanjeev Kumar, head of policy at EGEC expressed “disappointment” over the commission’s lack of inclusion of geothermal energy in the 2040 climate target proposal. Kumar was hopeful the EU executive would consider a dedicated strategy, following recent European Parliament support for use of the renewable energy in a plenary vote, alongside the backing by France, Germany, Poland and other countries.
Kumar said the internal market for gas “has served to lock Europe into an endless cycle of energy volatile imports and price crises” and argued that geothermal could be the “antidote” necessary to decarbonise the heating sector.
They also backed the idea of separate targets, or sub-targets, to ensure “clarity for investors”, in particular for decarbonised heat and carbon capture storage and utilisation.
“It’s easier to mobilise global investment [having a 2040 target]”, a European Commission official told Euronews, noting such an intermediate target is important for “predictability”.
An EU diplomat said that now that a target had been set “how we get there” would come to dominate the debate. The diplomat said making the energy transition fit for people while maintaining ambition had now become key, evoking the ongoing farmers’ protests and a growing political dissatisfaction towards climate ambition.
The commission told Euronews the 2040 communication’s intention is “not to prescribe any specific policy option at this stage” but to “start a dialogue on this objective” and in line with the path towards climate neutrality by 2050.
The EU is required by law to present a 2040 climate target, setting the path towards net-neutrality by 2050. A legislative proposal is expected to be tabled by the next commission, after the European elections in June.