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Renewable energy’s next frontier: heat (and coolth)

March 8th, 2018

As Europe is currently experiencing extremely cold weather much attention has been given to the question of heat.  Long overdue in our opinion, as heating accounts for around 50% of all energy used globally and 40% of all CO2 emissions.  Extreme weather and geopolitical uncertainty also draw attention to the potentially serious issues around security of supply.  Although the overall demand for heat is still rising it is being outpaced by the need for cooling.  Renewable thermal energy is gaining a lot of attention with governments around the world acknowledging that despite good progress in decarbonising the generation of electricity by a switch to renewable solutions there is much than can and must be done to make heating and cooling sustainable.

 

Electrification of heating may provide part of the answer, but creates additional challenges at times of peak demand which could be exacerbated by a simultaneous push towards the electrification of the transport sector.  Advances in storage of electricity will play a role, but may not be sufficient. There is no magic bullet and no doubt the best solution will be a mix of technologies.  Solar thermal could play a major role when combined with inter-seasonal storage and district heating systems.  At the other extreme solar thermal is likely to play a significant part in fulfilling the growing demand for air-conditioning where demand and supply are perfectly matched (allowing solar electricity to be used for other applications).

 

Here are a few interesting articles and websites going onto more detail:

 

http://www.iea.org/publications/insights/insightpublications/Renewable_Heat_Policies.pdf

 

http://www.iea-shc.org/data/sites/1/publications/Solar-Heat-Worldwide-2017.pdf

 

https://www.renewablethermal.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/RTC_FactSheet_FINAL.pdf