Euroheat & Power: “It is a real Swiss army knife to accelerate the heat transition!”

4th Aug, 2023

Euroheat & Power (EHP) is a non-profit organisation promoting sustainable District Heating and Cooling (DHC) solutions in Europe and beyond. Founded in 1954, it brings together over 130 members in 30 countries worldwide - mostly national district heating associations but with a growing base of corporate members in the last decade.

District heating is a proven solution to decarbonise heating, cooling and hot water supply in residential and tertiary buildings. Today, there are more than 17,000 district heating networks in Europe that supply more than 65 million European citizens.

HQ spoke with Managing Director Aurélie Beauvais about the mission to promote decarbonisation and modernisation of European urban infrastructure in Europe through advocacy, knowledge sharing, and networking.

1) As a member-led non-profit representing several national organisations, how did you overcome the difficulties caused by the pandemic and what was the impact on the heating and cooling market?

Euroheat & Power, like many other European associations, has faced challenges due to COVID-19 and the resulting changes in the business and social environment. However, we have adapted to this new normal to ensure the continuity of our operations, support our members, and promote sustainable heating and cooling solutions. This has included moving to virtual events by increasing digital communication channels, and maintaining collaboration with policymakers to ensure our industry is included in post-pandemic recovery plans. Similarly, the pandemic affected the market in a mixed way but the supply chain in all cases. Some sectors experienced a decrease in demand, such as commercial buildings that had to stop their activities temporarily, while others increased demand, such as residential buildings. It is difficult to pinpoint just one effect of the pandemic, as impacts differ by region, sector, and product. However, our sector is now back in full swing; with the energy crisis, the demand for local and sustainable heating solutions, such as DHC, has never been stronger.

2) How do you envisage a sustainable energy network from these energy districts that will supply the world efficiently and at scale in 2050?

The need for sustainable heating and cooling in urban environments will grow as our cities develop. Climate change is expected to generate increasingly extreme weather events, from heat waves to cold snaps; it is, therefore, essential to plan for the future and ensure that our heating and cooling infrastructure isn’t only clean but resilient.

District heating networks have a pivotal role to play - particularly suitable for densely populated areas, they allow the development of multi-energy thermal networks capitalising on a variety of local resources − geothermal, solar thermal, sustainable biomass, excess heat, wind and solar, etc. Thanks to a well-developed toolbox, we can absorb excess renewable electricity from wind and solar and use it to produce heat during peak demand, thus ensuring better stability and resilience of the energy system. By 2050, DHC networks will be a mix of all these energy sources and could provide up to 50% of Europe’s heat demand, according to the Heat Roadmap Europe Study.

For that to happen, we will need adequate legislative and regulatory frameworks and public and private capital to support modernising existing systems, developing new networks based on renewable and recovered heat sources, and renovating our building stock. EHP works with its members, industry experts and policy makers to build a future-proof European regulation.

"The conflict in Ukraine exposed Europe’s critical dependency on fossil fuel use, especially for heating and cooling, representing half of Europe’s energy demand."

3) How has EuroHeat & Power guided its code of ethics and internal policies with business travel and professional conferences?

The COVID crisis forced us to reconsider how we work and interact with our members and community. For us, it came very naturally. We have learnt much from this experience, particularly optimising our travels and activities! Our National Members are at the forefront regarding cooperation with local players and authorities – we, therefore, limit our travels to the necessary and try to privilege the train as much as possible. We tend to apply a similar policy for our internal meetings and events, requiring physical presence only when there is a clear added value. It also makes sense economically: reducing travel and developing online or hybrid activities has reduced our operational costs, freeing some budget for other activities.

4) How far are we from converging this pressing need to reduce our carbon footprint with a European re-industrialisation strategy in this sector?

Reducing our carbon footprint while promoting Europe’s re-industrialisation is a challenge the EU is currently tackling with the proposal for a Net Zero Industry Act (NZIA). The initiative is meant to be the EU’s response to the American Inflation Reduction to preserve the competitiveness and attractiveness of the EU net-zero industry as an investment recipient. The NZIA aims to scale up the European manufacturing capacity of net-zero technologies, support the Union’s 2030 decarbonisation target, and contribute to the Union’s resilience and security of clean energy supply. It mainly applies to eight technologies, including solar, wind, heat pumps, geothermal, biogas/biomethane, carbon capture and storage (CCS), and grid technologies, most already integrated into DHC systems. The good news is that for heating and cooling and, in particular, DHC systems, technologies and products are primarily produced in the EU. However, the EU’s industrial strategy should aim at reshoring strategic technologies and maintaining its industrial flagship in the continent.

5) Can you please introduce us to your DHC+ Platform?

Set up under the umbrella of Euroheat & Power, the DHC+ Platform advances research and innovation in DHC. DHC+’s activities are focused around four main pillars: supporting our members’ successful involvement in EU-funded projects, sharing research outcomes and being part of projects contributing to an efficient and sustainable energy system, promoting knowledge transfer initiatives in district energy, and providing regular monitoring of EU funding opportunities relevant for the sector.

DHC+ and its members are currently involved in various EU research projects on renewable heating and cooling, digitalisation, low-temperature thermal networks, consumer engagement, smart cities, integrated energy systems, and more. We are proud to be the European energy association with the broadest project portfolio, currently involved in no less than 15 EU projects! We have also established and successfully implemented international education & training initiatives (such as DHC+ Student Awards and DHC+ Summer School) and continue to support the next generation of DHC experts.

"By 2050, DHC networks will be a mix of all these energy sources and could provide up to 50% of Europe’s heat demand."

6) Could the war in Ukraine be another step towards a clean and sustainable energy network across Europe?

The conflict in Ukraine exposed Europe’s critical dependency on fossil fuel use, especially for heating and cooling, representing half of Europe’s energy demand. It also sparked a new, decisive momentum to accelerate the roll-out of clean heat sources in Europe. Our sector, therefore, gained increasing attention as the only energy infrastructure enabling the combined use of local renewable heat sources (e.g. sustainable bioenergy, geothermal, solar thermal), renewable electricity (via large heat pumps or e-boilers) and the recovery of excess heat from industrial and urban sources. It is a real Swiss army knife to accelerate the heat transition!

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