Renewable space heating under the revised Renewable Energy Directive


Space and water heating accounts for almost one third of the European final energy consumption. Thus, the sector needs special attention in the decarbonisation process. This study aims to provide a better information basis for policy design targeting decarbonisation of the space and water heating sector. This involves collecting data and information on the status-quo of the space and water heating sector in the EU with regard to energy consumption, energy carriers, technologies and the regulatory framework. Furthermore, alternative decarbonisation pathways are modelled to better understand the long-term perspectives and related costs. Finally, recommendations for policy design were developed and discussed with relevant stakeholders from EU and the Member States. The study focuses on heat consumption in buildings and covers space heating and the supply of sanitary hot water.


The end-use balances for space and water heating developed in this task provide a substantial complement to Eurostat's energy balances. Adding the dimensions of sub-sectors (e.g. single- and multi-family homes for the households sector), end-uses (space heating, water heating, other end-uses) and technologies (e.g. different heat pump types) allows for a comprehensive overview of energy use for heating in the 31 European countries considered.

The overall fuel mix for space and water heating in the EU-27 is dominated by natural gas (43%), biomass (16%), and fuel oil (15%). With about 62%, fossil fuels account for the major share of final energy supply in the EU-27. Emerging energy carriers such as ambient heat (heat pumps), solar thermal and geothermal energy can be seen as niche options, with a total share of approximately 3.6% in final energy demand for space and water heating. Taking explicit account of the fuel mix for electricity and district heating, the renewable share of the EU-27's primary energy fuel mix is estimated at 23%, giving rise to several recommendations for courses of action.

Building on the assessment of end-uses and technologies, a scenario analysis using bottom modeling was conducted. Following main insights can be derived. First, if measures and the overall system are optimised (as assumed in our modelling approach) the costs, in particular for the scenarios hydrogen, direct RES, district heating and e-fuels do not deliver a clear criteria for a decision. More relevant are the barriers and policy implications for the decision for one or the other pathway. Second, some measures can be regarded as no-regret options as they are identical for all scenarios: a high level of building renovation, a high diffusion of heat pumps and district heating in suitable areas. Moreover, even in the H2 and e-gas scenario parts of the gas grid would need to be decommissioned, because there would be more economic decarbonisation solutions. Third, the best case scenario – resulting in the lowest cost – is close to the electrification scenario, however, with slightly higher penetration of solar heat and district heating.


2020 to 2021


  • European Commission Directorate-General for Energy


  • TU Wien
  • e-think
  • Öko-Institut
  • Viegand Maagoe