Heat Synergy Regions as driver of integrated territorial development
The strategic panel session on "Heat Synergy Regions" co-organised by ICLEI Europe and the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) aimed to identify the drivers that block or empower regional and local authorities to cost-effectively decarbonise thermal energy systems by accelerating the integration of locally and regionally available renewable energy as well as excess heat sources. The session brought together representatives from Aalborg University, the research initiative Heat Roadmap Europe (HRE), representatives from the Strasbourg Eurometrople region, the CoR and Budapest city council, as well as DG REGIO experts on EU development funding and national district energy policy from the Czech Republic.
In its keynote speech Aalborg University presented the findings from the HRE 2050 decarbonisation scenario for an integrated energy system:
- it is possible to fully and cost-effectively decarbonise Europe’s energy system by 2050 with the technologies currently available;
- there is more excess heat available than necessary to heat Europe’s entire building stock;
- energy efficiency has to first become a key principle for both demand and supply;
- district energy is the most economic and technically viable solution for the majority of urban areas, if fueled with renewable sources, excess heat, heat pumps and cogeneration;
- heat pumps are the most cost-effective solution to supply rural areas with low-carbon energy;
- the heating and cooling sector has an important role to play in integrating and increasing the share of variable renewable energy and a greater grid flexibility;
- pre-conditions vary significantly across European regions and deviate from national aggregated data making context specific strategies a requirement.
Taking up on these findings, panelists presented recent local heating and cooling initiatives as examples to build Heat Synergy Regions, explored the Pan-European Thermal Atlas (Peta4) as a useful tool for energy planners to identify available sources and potential district energy infrastructure and concluded on the key challenges and beneficial conditions for a successful and cost-efficient transformation of the European energy system:
- CO2 taxation and reduced VAT for renewable energy were identified as important instruments to incentivise the restructuring of the thermal infrastructure and uptake of renewable solutions over individual fossil fuel based technologies;
- Redesigning energy networks successfully requires an integrated approach on urban planning, private consumers, social acceptance of renewable solutions and supportive, targeted energy policy strategies for all sectors and on all political levels;
- A shortage of skilled workforce to implement renewable energy measures is a major obstacle for many European regions;
- Peta4 was highlighted as a very useful tool to facilitate and deepen the exchange between funding and energy planning experts and to align efficiency and renewable energy goals on all levels to support integrated territorial development and public funding according to local needs.
Take away message
A cost-effective decarbonisation of heating and cooling is possible with the technical solutions available today. The different conditions European regions are facing require context specific solutions to achieve the necessary redesign of the energy system and increase in energy efficiency and renewables. CO2 taxation, reduced VAT for renewable energy, thermal maps as well as the horizontal integration of all energy sectors and energy targets, policies and investments are essential to enable a successful decarbonisation and to strengthen rural-urban cooperation.
"The Commission has proposed the adoption of the National Energy and Climate Plan as an enabling condition for Cohesion Policy funding for energy efficiency and renewable energy 2021-2027 for strategic alignment at national level. The work of HRE can give regions and cities concrete guidance at local level."
“As a CoR rapporteur I wanted to show that it’s possible to go from 100% to 0% landfilling without incineration by educating citizens to become smart energy consumers and customers. Citizens that are active about their waste do not produce the waste that needs to be recycled and incinerated today.”
Strasbourg aims for 100% renewable energy by 2050. Our initiatives to use deep geothermal energy or excess heat from a steel plant in Germany complements this target. Tools like Peta4, mapping the density of heat demand and excess heat, help us to implement sustainable energy policies going beyond political boundaries.
"Not enough has happened to decarbonise heating and cooling in the last 25 years. It is a challenge but it is possible with the technology in place. We do not have to wait for a silver bullet, it is about developing the regional infrastructure that already exists."