Achieving climate neutrality by 2050 requires decarbonising the whole economy, including the energy-hungry heating sector, says Finland’s Riku Huttunen. And that will involve cooperation at all levels of government, including local and EU authorities, he argues.
Heating represents almost half (40%) of the EU’s total energy consumption. As such, it is also responsible for a large share of greenhouse gas emissions. Yet, politicians seem reluctant to confront the issue head-on.
When it comes to heating, it is often forgotten or overlooked compared to electricity supply. One reason might be that heating is considered a local or regional solution.
However, thinking about market rules and the Emissions Trading Scheme, this is far from being just a local issue. It is the responsibility of national and EU policymakers to implement policies and measures valid for the heating sector in different operating environments in Europe.
Some policymakers seem to assume the problem will solve itself upstream, once the entire energy system will have switched to renewables – whether electricity or gas. Would that indeed be a desirable outcome?
Some key principles are important, one of them being technology neutrality. Another is sector integration, or sector coupling.
Fossil fuels – oil, gas, and coal – cover around 75% of the demand in the heating sector in Europe. So how fast can we get this number down to zero? Are there any obvious decarbonisation pathways to get to net-zero emissions by 2050?
There are definitely some challenges in decarbonising the heating sector. The EU Community should collaborate, also through Public-Private Partnerships, to find and develop good, sustainable and cost-effective heating and cooling solutions for our citizens.
In the long run, one pathway could be to electrify the heating sector. But technology is not the only thing needed. For example, individual building owners often lack both knowledge and financing to carry out the transition. Reasonable funding sources and dissemination of good practices can be important tools in this regard.