Renewables set to steal a march on space heating

May 18, 2016

Existing renewable energy technology could provide nearly half of the energy used to heat Europe’s homes by 2040, slashing gas demand and helping to meet climate targets.

This is the conclusion of a new study from research firm IHS Energy. Catherine Robinson, a senior director, said: “Our analysis strongly suggests that existing technology can transform Europe’s heat sector – significantly increasing the share of low-cost renewable heat in the next 15 years by using existing legislation to introduce hybrid heating systems.”

The widespread adoption of hybrid systems comprising condensing gas boilers and air source heat pumps could see Europe’s residential carbon dioxide emissions cut by 75% by 2050. Air-source heat pumps are devices akin to a domestic fridge, such units extract energy from the outside air – cooling it – and inject that heat into the living space.

The power required to run the compressor required for the typical air-source heat pump can be supplied via solar panels, for example.

According to the IHS report ‘Beyond the Flame: The Transformation of Europe’s Heat Sector’, renewables could provide 49% of the heat used in the residential sector by 2040.

“The heat transformation would make a big difference in the countries that have a lot of gas heating, like the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, France or Italy,” added Deborah Mann, also a director at IHS Energy, noting that the key finding of the analysis is that hybrid heating systems can directly replace most existing gas boilers without the need for significant building refurbishment, unlike standalone heat pumps.

“From an environmental standpoint, these hybrid systems can provide large-scale, cost-effective reductions in GHG emissions,” she said.

Robinson added: “It would also have far-reaching implications for many stakeholders, like utilities or gas producers.”

Editor’s comment: Since heating and cooling accounts for almost half of European energy consumption and natural gas currently produces almost 50% of Europe’s heat, reducing the associated greenhouse gases represents a major opportunity. Hybrid systems, operating as part of a ‘smart home’ energy management system, could see renewables taking a major slice.

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