The heating market is changing. New, lower carbon systems are emerging, and disruption is occurring in the traditional value chains. The industry is at an exciting – and challenging – point in its evolution, with many different pathways it could take into the future.
Through our Delta-ee Gas Heating Service, we are helping companies understand what this future could look like. On Thursday July 13th, we will be holding our public webinar: “Beyond the boiler: how is the future for gas-based heating emerging today?” – click here to register.
The future is decarbonisation – but how?
The need to reduce our CO2 emissions is clear, and we know the milestones we want to hit: in the EU, a reduction in CO2 emissions of at least 40% on 1990 levels by 2030, in order to make substantial progress towards our 2050 goals. In Europe, our homes, offices, shops and other buildings account for nearly 40% of final energy consumption, and 36% of greenhouse gas emissions - and heating and hot water use account for 79% of final energy use. So changing how we heat - as well as how we power - our homes must be part of that.
There is now a stated ambition from many Governments, businesses, institutions and individuals that decarbonisation of heating should happen. But exactly how we are going to get there seems to remain largely undecided.
A decarbonisation roadmap
We see four basic elements that should be present in any roadmap to a Europe where heating is significantly decarbonised:
- Energy efficiency – reduce demand wherever possible. We already see significant intervention being taken here in relation to newbuild properties (for more information, see our work on Nearly-Zero Energy Buildings). But progress has yet to get started in any major way on tackling the energy demand of existing buildings.
- Electrify (some) heating demand. When combined with renewable or low carbon sources of electricity, it could lead to significant reductions in emissions. But electrifying large portions of the building stock will also come with some significant challenges: inter-seasonal storage, electricity network reinforcement and the need for large increases in renewable electricity generation, to name a few. These challenges can be overcome, but will take investment, political willpower, and time.
- Decarbonise gas. Hydrogen, biomethane and synthetic natural gas could all play a role, plus make use of existing gas infrastructure, including the use of inter-seasonal storage facilities. But there will be limits on the maximum volumes of biogas which can be produced, and we think it will be a long time before hydrogen for heating moves beyond trials into a serious mainstream offering for heating.
- Move beyond the gas boiler, to higher efficiency appliances. A large proportion of Europe’s buildings are currently using gas boilers for space heating and hot water. Of the 96 million dwellings found in France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and the UK (five major European heating markets), almost 65 million are today heated by gas. But the condensing boiler as a standalone product is unlikely to be the end point for gas-based heating in buildings. There are other appliances which are available on the market today, including:
- Fuel cells
- Hybrid gas-electric heat pumps
- Gas driven heat pumps
All of which can increase efficiency, reduce CO2 emissions, contribute to security of energy supply, be part of a more distributed energy system, and make savings for end-users on their energy bills.
A diverse future energy mix
To achieve our 2030 milestones, and meet our 2050 goal, all four of these elements will be important. Based on current policy direction and ambition, we think gas will continue to be present in many buildings in Europe as a source of heat (and power) to 2030, and potentially beyond that. So, it will be important that this gas is used as efficiently as possible – meaning that you may already have installed your last gas boiler.
Join us for our webinar on Thursday 13th July 2017, to learn more about how we see the future for gas-based heating emerging today, as Europe moves beyond the boiler. Click here to register.
 European Commission. https://ec.europa.eu/energy/en/topics/energy-efficiency/buildings, accessed 03/07/2017.
 European Commission. http://ec.europa.eu/energy/en/topics/energy-efficiency/heating-and-cooling, accessed 04/07/2017.