No silver-bullet to de-carbonise heating sector, but heat-pumps and solar have a bright future, says Scottish energy consultancy

solar roof panels Clean Energy Installations PV PanelsThere is no ‘silver bullet’ to de-carbonising the domestic heating industry, according to experts at an Edinburgh-based consultancy.

Analysts at Delta-ee examined the implications of the Nearly-Zero Energy Building (NZEB) regulations on the European heating industry. 

The report finds that there is no silver bullet to decarbonising heat: in the long term it requires a mix of biofuels, energy efficiency and electrification (assuming of course the electricity is generated renewably). 

Buildings account for around 40% of total final energy consumption and improving their energy efficiency is essential in meeting EU carbon reduction targets. 

The mandatory new EU-law (notwithstanding the vote in favour of British Independence from the EU-bloc) – the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive – attempts to do this via the implementation of Nearly-Zero Energy Building (NZEB) regulations, which focus on new- build and major renovations and retro-fitting on existing buildings.  

Lukas Bergmann, Senior Analyst, said: “Our report shows that it is currently a nightmare for the heating industry to see the products that the European market will need in future. 

“This uncertainty creates inertia in product development and encourages companies to protect the status quo, i.e. to continue selling conventional heating systems such as boilers. “

In the short-to-medium term Delta-ee’s analysis of the NZEB regulations concludes that:

  • The EU regulations are largely undefined or difficult to interpret across many EU member states – apart from Denmark.
  • A whole-building approach is key to meeting NZEB standards i.e. heating system technology, building fabric, orientation and ventilation all need to be considered.
  • Conventional heating products – combined with a more efficient building fabric – will not usually be the most cost effective way of meeting the new EU standards.   
  •  Heat pumps appear to be likely winners;  direct electric heating is less favoured and micro-CHP’s main opportunity is in the retrofit market.
  • The role of solar technologies (PV and thermal) looks to be critical for many heating systems to be eligible under NZEB regulations.

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