Heating and cooling in the Energy Union project: the challenges ahead for implementing an efficiency-based energy approach

Speakers: Pontoglio Serena, Schroeder-Selbach Uwe, Köpke Dina, Herkel Sebastian, Voigt Andrea
Moderator: Hall Siobhan

On Wednesday, June 30th, at the premises of Science Atrium14 in Brussels, PubAffairs Bruxelles hosted a discussion on the theme of heating and cooling in the Energy Union project and the challenges ahead for implementing an efficiency-based energy approach, with Mrs Serena Pontoglio, Policy Officer, DG ENER, European Commission, Mr Uwe Schroeder-Selbach, Counsellor for Energy, Permanent Representation of Germany to the EU, Mrs Dina Köpke, Director Governmental Affairs Emerson Climate Technologies GmbH and Dipl.-Ing. Sebastian Herkel, Head of Solar Building Department Division Thermal Systems and Buildings Fraunhofer-Institute for Solar Energy Systems.

The event was sponsored by the European Partnership for Energy and the Environment (EPEE), whose Director General, Mrs Andrea Voigt, contributed to the debate with preliminary and concluding remarks, while the debate was moderated by Siobhan Hall, Senior editor, EU energy policy at Platts.com.

Before the debate took place, Mrs Voigt presented the European Partnership for Energy and  the Environment (EPEE), and explained that the heating and cooling strategy is of great importance for EPEE. Mrs Voigt described four pivotal aspects that should be taken into consideration when elaborating the strategies for a sustainable and secure energy system in Europe; these are: the need for a holistic approach to ensure the effective use of energy; the implementation and enforcement of existing legislation, as the example of compliance with the building directive has clearly indicated; a technology-neutral approach and an equal focus on heating and cooling; and finally consumer awareness to trigger investments in energy efficient solutions. She concluded by emphasizing the need for investments, and stating all types of incentives for energy efficient solutions that should be further addressed in order to maximise the advantages of energy efficiency-driven solutions across the European Union.

In the first part of the debate, Siobhan Hall introduced the speakers and the main topics which the debate would  touch upon. She then asked the views  of the participants on the EU Heating and Cooling Strategy and on energy efficiency-related matters, as well as some other questions concerning both the technical and the regulatory aspects of the heating and cooling sector.

Mrs Pontoglio started her intervention by emphasising that the heating and cooling sector has a huge potential in terms of energy efficiency. For this very reason, the European Union took a closer look at this domain in the scope of the Energy Union Communication published in February as such sector had not been always comprehensively tackled beforehand. Subsequently, she remarked that several pieces of legislation such as the Energy Efficiency Directive or the Ecodesign Directive have already touched upon some important aspects of this domain, however without developing a fully-fledged approach, not allowing for the enhancement of the potential energy efficiency value of this domain. She added that heating and cooling should not only be considered in relation with the building sector, the electricity domain and the manufacturing industry, but also in terms of their impacts on consumers. Mrs Pontoglio continued by explaining that as the European Commission should come forward with the Heating and Cooling Strategy by the end of this year, the aim of the Commission is to gain a full understanding of the heating and cooling sector both from the supply and the demand side in order to provide both consumers and business with the best set of options available. During her interventions, Mrs Pontoglio pointed out that the Commission will consider several energy efficient options such as using industrial energy waste for residential heating and cooling. As there is a need to find a balance between energy efficiency and integrating renewable energy into the heating and cooling sector, the most successful solutions might emerge as the result of several factors including geographical positioning, cost analysis and available technology.

Mr Schroeder-Selbach premised that, when tackling the issue of heating and cooling, one challenge which should be looked at is public awareness, i.e. policies, technologies and economies need to be convincing. He added that there are no one-size-fits-all solutions due to cross-EU differences in climate, renewable potentials, local heating and building traditions and so on. Thus preference should be given to technology neutrality, i.e. with a target priority to reduce primary (fossile) energy consumption. He continued by stating that the highest potentials lie with the building stock and its refurbishment as new construction is limited and present refurbishment rates are low, thus requiring a special policy focus here. Making use of synergies with the electricity sector, stemming from heat pumps, CHP or power-to-heat, could improve overall efficiency, security of supply and create new business models. During his interventions, Mr Schroeder-Selbach also elaborated on the situation in Germany by explaining, for example, that the government defined a set of ambitious targets for the heating and cooling sector, which include, among others, doubling of annual refurbishment rates, lowering of buildings’ heating demand, increasing the share of renewable energy in the building sector and creating a climate neutral building stock by 2050. The speaker emphasised the existing hurdles which need to be overcome in meeting these targets. Firstly, he stated that on a regulatory level the German government is doubtful about introducing broad tax incentives for refurbishment due to major effects on fiscal policies. Secondly, he pointed out that the governing grand coalition has ruled out new command-and-control regulation in the field, thus relying mainly on existing requirements in building regulations, as well as budget-sponsored incentive and advisory programs. According to Mr Schroeder-Selbach, there are also numerous optimisation potentials with regard to integration of heating systems into buildings, training of installers or monitoring of installations. He concluded that future potentials for highly-efficient and/or renewable CHP could mainly be observed with the smaller scale, whereas large district heating systems needed to cope with declining heat demand and should rather be approached with a combination of fuel switch, temperature shift or flexibility investments.

Mrs Köpke focused her intervention on the user side and advocated a bottom-up approach for a successful implementation of the Heating and Cooling Strategy. In this regard, she emphasised that installations are most of the time drastically oversized in relation to the building demand. The installer nearly always sizes the installation rather generously to ensure no complaints from the customer. According to Mrs Köpke this is often due to knowledge deficit, as consumers tend not to have a precise idea of their real consumption and thereby are not in the position to challenge the installer. This may require some behavioural change which may be coming from the youth, if they are educated in school about energy efficiency and its measures and its importance. In addition, she underlined that heating and cooling installation procedures are rarely following a set protocol.  During placing into operations possible energy efficiency shortcomings are not consistently identified. As a result, according to Mrs Köpke, citizens’ awareness is crucial to further developing energy efficiency projects in the EU as societal change will reach its full potential only if there are viable procedures to better determine energy consumption and systems performances.

Mr Herkel concentrated his speech mostly on the building sector, with special regard to the energy supply system-side, as he expressed the opinion that a valuable amount of consumption reduction is achievable via supply system-oriented actions. He remarked that the evidence of this assumption should be found in the fact that supply systems are renewed more frequently compared to other parts of buildings. He continued by explaining that,  from an economic perspective also, it would be advisable to bear in mind this approach when formulating the main strategy, even in cases where there is a degree of technological uncertainty. Mr Herkel agreed with Mr Schroeder-Selbach on the macro level analysis about the difficulties due to the specificities of both buildings and buildings locations. However he also underlined that a mix of technologies is already available and fit for purpose. According to Mr Herkel the supply system can not only contribute to enhancing energy efficiency , but also to de-carbonisation as there would be less demand for gas, a fact which should be considered as an important driver for change. Three questions should be added to the discussion on energy efficiency in Mr Herkel’s opinion. These are: firstly, the necessity of constant commitment to supply systems, also in the form of a regulatory reform  of installers’ education; secondly, the technical difficulties in the exploitation of the potential of solar, thermal and heat pumps by final consumers and, thirdly, the importance of the cooling and refrigeration sector with regard to solar power.

The main point of discussion consisted of the necessity of adopting a Heating and Cooling strategy for Europe given the differences in geographical locations and energy mixes among  EU member states. On these issues, Mrs Pontoglio stated that, although the different energy mixes along with other differentiations among member states exist, an EU-wide action could not only  help to put into practice some valuable cross-cutting measures but also allow  the achievement of other objectives of the EU energy strategy. Mr Schroeder-Selbach said on the matter that there are already examples of both different member states adopting similar policies and cross-border cooperation. Mr Herkel and Mrs Kopke agreed that, for example, heat pumps are a valuable technology in all member states despite the differences between the member states. Furthermore, Mr Herkel added that it is easier to integrate heat pumps in the heating and cooling system in southern member states.

The final part of the debate and the Q&A session also covered the following issues: the use of refrigerants in buildings, the need for scientific backup in EU and national decision making, the question of how to manage the energy transition in Europe, the causes of the difficulties in implementing existing legislation, the EU Commission infringements procedures, the possibility of establishing EU policies to train installers and the current market installer setting, the question of efficiency of power plants and how to make the generation of electricity more efficient, the questions of household electricity demand; energy storage with special regard to Germany; nuclear phase out and  expanding the  choices for consumers.

Do you want to go further into the issues discussed in our debate? Check our list of selected sources which we have provided for you

European Commission dedicated pages on the Energy Union

The Energy Efficiency Industrial forum (EEIF)

The gap between predicted and measured energy performance of buildings: A framework for investigation


EPEE position paper on heating & cooling

The EPEE website

EPEE Twitter

Energy Union: Heating and cooling should take centre stage, Euractiv.com

EU turns up the heat: finally, a policy push for heating and cooling, Energypost.eu