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No more support for fossil fuels anymore?

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Earlier this year, in its Heating and Cooling Strategy, the European Commission addressed thermal energy for the first time in a consistent manner. This was timely, as decarbonising Europe’s energy system is impossible without decarbonising the heating and cooling sector.



The ‘Clean Energy Package’ that was published yesterday is a step in the right direction to enshrine the objectives of the Strategy in EU law.


A first review shows positive, yet often indirect benefits for the deployment of heat pumps, as ‘best available technology’[1] to decarbonise the thermal sector, among which:

  • An increased energy efficiency target to 30% that should help move away from inefficient technologies;
  • A 40-billion-euro budget for the energy transition and increased support for renewables;
  • An encouragement for Member States to require their energy providers to annually increase their renewable energy share, as a new trigger for fuel switch;
  • The promotion of self-consumption and the flexible use of electricity, as a backbone for the connection and integration of the electricity and the heat sector;
  • A new primary energy factor of 2.0 that better reflects the impact of a decarbonised electricity mix and will guide investor and consumer decisions;
  • Provisions to increase the share of renewables and waste heat in district heating, also mentioning the untapped potential of industrial and commercial heat pumps;
  • Increased reference to heat pump technology, which will reassure investors that the technology is recognised for its merits.



Despite Commissioner’s Cañete statement that the Commission ‘will not support fossil fuels neither directly nor indirectly’, the suggested policy framework is still too technology neutral without being “low carb energy source specific”. Consequently, it will neither prevent Member States from favouring fossil energy over renewables, nor will it stop fossil subsidies. 


The co-legislators will therefore have to push this ‘package’ to the next level of ambition. 


Thomas Nowak, EHPA’s Secretary general, comments: “This package is a first step in the right direction, but COP21 compatible policies must ensure that solutions that are not “2050 ready” are not promoted anymore. Instead, highly efficient renewable solutions must be phased-in as soon as possible. Industry is ready for this change but it requires a stronger backing by policy-makers”.



The PDF version is available here 

[1] 1 The IEA Energy Efficiency Market Report 2016 states that heat pumps are the ‘best available technology’ for space heating.