Pre-Publication Project Energy

Decarbonisation of buildings and heating

Heating and cooling constitute about 50% of the EU energy economy (EC 2016), with major demands in buildings. Households, for example, account for about 25% of EU final energy consumption. The decarbonisation of buildings will have important impacts at the energy system level, for example, natural gas is now a major source of heat for buildings, but is likely to be replaced within the next few years by other heat sources such as electric resistance heaters, heat pumps, biogas, and solar heaters. A vast amount of research continues to be funded on energy in buildings, including the monitoring and modelling of building energy performance. 

Legislation relating to the design of new buildings is usually implemented using national building regulations, which can deliver near zero energy buildings (NZEB) through the use of mechanical ventilation with heat recovery, low carbon energy heating systems and excellent heating control systems, as well as very high levels of insulation.

In comparison with new buildings, the decarbonisation of existing buildings is more difficult because the rates of building refurbishment are low in the EU, most existing buildings are occupied, and many building owners have limited resources to finance refurbishments. In addition, the appearance of existing buildings is an important part of a locality’s cultural heritage and in some cases is legally protected. 

Until recently, heating has been largely neglected in EU energy legislation. Requirements were put in place in 2010 through the EU energy performance of buildings directive (EPBD) for “near zero energy buildings”, but this directive had to be amended in 2018 to include a requirement for each EU Member State to establish a long term building renovation strategy.

A new EASAC project is foreseen to highlight the most important next steps which need to be taken by EU policy makers to deliver the decarbonisation of buildings and heating in time to meet EU commitments to the Paris agreement.

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