EPEE’s recent Heating and cooling in the Energy Union project conference produced a lively debate on the future of energy integration, says Andrea Voigt
The announcement earlier this year that the European Union (EU) proposed to set out a heating and cooling strategy by the end of 2015 has been roundly welcomed by the European Partnership for Energy and the Environment (EPEE) and its members
Such a strategy will represent a key element of the EU’s Energy Union framework, and as heating and cooling forms a major part of Europe’s energy consumption, it makes sense for there to be a strong focus on this sector.
In recent months EPEE has been active on this subject and has already drafted a Position Paper on heating and cooling with the aim of already providing various ideas and proposals for the European Commission (EC) to consider.
To further the debate EPEE hosted an event in Brussels on 30 June, the aim of which was to discuss some ideas and proposals for the Strategy with representatives from the EU Institutions, industry, and academia.
Importance of heating and cooling
The future EU Heating & Cooling Strategy is of crucial importance as it focusses on the largest energy consuming sector in Europe, namely the heating and cooling of buildings. As a key operator in this field, EPEE is eager to play its part in making Europe’s sustainable and secure energy system a reality.
EPEE strongly supports the principle of energy efficiency as a “first fuel”, and our industry is committed to developing energy efficient technologies and helping reduce energy demand as per the objective in the EU Energy Union framework.
It is also worth reiterating the importance of cooling, which has in the past been compelled to play second fiddle to heating. Both aspects need to be included equally in future policies.
In its Position Paper EPEE listed four “success factors” which can bring about a sustainable and secure energy system in Europe, namely:
- A holistic approach to ensure the effective use of energy
- The implementation and enforcement of current legislation
- A technology neutral approach and an equal focus on heating and cooling; and
- Consumer awareness to trigger investments in energ- efficient solutions.
Heating and cooling captures stakeholder imaginations
It was in this context that EPEE hosted a lively evening debate in Brussels recently entitled “Heating and cooling in the Energy Union project – the challenges ahead for implementing an efficiency-based energy approach”.
Speakers from the European Commission, the EU Member State governments, industry, and academics discussed the challenges that lie ahead for energy efficiency and particularly the heating and cooling sector in the EU.
The event attracted more than 200 registrations, highlighting how the issue of heating and cooling has captured the imagination of a large swathe of EU policy-makers, industry stakeholders, NGOs, and academics.
Speakers addressed a range of crucial issues including public acceptance, consumer behaviour, different national cultures and problems related to a “one size fits all approach”, the role of producers and installers, oversizing of equipment, and the role of the EU.
The dynamic exchange on the podium was followed by an interactive Q&A between the debate’s participants.
Potential for energy savings
The huge potential for further energy savings within heating and cooling was emphasised, which, as a sector, has not yet been fully exploited within EU legislation in terms of energy efficiency.
The Commission is currently seeking information from both the supply and demand side in view of the Strategy which will be published by the end of 2015. Several energy efficiency options will be considered in the strategy with geography, cost, and available technologies all to be factored in.
Speakers argued that there should be no one-size-fits-all approach due to differences in national cultures and traditions across the EU.
Others countered that EU-wide action would not only help implement some valuable cross-cutting measures, but also help achieve the other objectives in the EU energy strategy.
Heat pumps were referenced as an example of a technology which could be implemented in many countries without any problems.
Some speakers continued to argue that technology neutrality should be the order of the day, albeit with the overarching priority to reduce consumption of fossil fuels. Germany has been very active in this regard by, among others, doubling annual refurbishment rates, lowering buildings’ heating demand, and increasing the share of renewable energy in the building sector.
Raising consumer awareness
The consumer aspect of any future regulation was highlighted at regular intervals, particularly the importance of increasing consumer awareness.
It was also noted that installations are often oversized in relation to the building’s demand, reflecting a lack of awareness on the part of consumers, and it was suggested that young people should be better educated about the benefits of energy efficiency more generally.
It was noted that there is significant potential for energy use reduction via the supply systems, which are renewed more frequently than other parts of buildings.
Moreover, this approach would also contribute to de-carbonisation across Europe, since there would be less demand for gas.
During the debate, it became clear that there is tremendous potential to greatly increase energy savings within the heating and cooling sector.
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