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Research drives district heating effort in Europe

This week, the European Commission presented the first EU strategy for optimising heating and cooling in buildings and industries, a sector that accounts for half of the annual energy usage in Europe. Over the last five years, the EU has changed its position on district heating and cooling radically, partly influenced by various studies where researchers from Halmstad University have played an active role.

Just a few years ago, Brussels expected district heating to more or less disappear. But the EU has now completely changed its position and disctrict heating has a prominent position in the strategy as a key part of the transformation of the European energy system.

– I think it's fantastic that the EU finally has a heating and cooling strategy. It's exciting to see that the result of our research has a direct impact on societal development from a European perspective, says Sven Werner, Professor of Energy Technology at Halmstad University, who has spent more than ten years analysing the European heat supply and is part of the international research group Heat Roadmap Europe.

In its strategy, the European Commission specifically pinpoints reusing of waste heat and waste cold from industries in combination with energy efficient buildings and development of the district heating networks as concrete areas to continue working on. The background report refers to the Heat Roadmap Europe research in many instances.

Basis for concrete legislative proposals

Heat Roadmap Europe, which is lead by researchers from Aalborg University in Denmark, will now start on its fourth project – a comparative energy system study in the 14 largest EU countries. The study will be carried out within the EU's eighth framework programme Horizon 2020, and will start in March 2016. The overall goal of the project is to persuade decision-makers and investors to develop legislation and invest in new markets that can redirect the heating sector in Europe to more reusage of waste heat and renewable energy.

The EU Strategy on Heating and Cooling will influence three future EU directives on renewable energy, energy efficiency and energy performance in buildings, which in turn is the basis for concrete legislative proposals on heating and cooling in EU member states.

– My hope is that the public energy debate in Europe will devote more time and effort to these issues and that the politicians fully understand the real soul of district heating. The whole point is to reuse heat that someone else has already used. But the full potential of the technology is reached by combining it with more energy efficient buildings, as you can then take advantage of the district heating effect even more. It's all connected, says Sven Werner.


Footnote. The project's name is Heat Roadmap Europe: Building the Knowledge, Skills, and Capacity Required to Enable New Policies and Encourage New Investments in the Heating and Cooling Sector, Horizon 2020, 2016–2018.

Updated 2016-02-18