RES-H&C Pathways - Renewable Heating and Cooling Pathways: Measures and milestones for the implementation of the recast Renewable Energy Directive and full decarbonisation by 2050

Heating and cooling (H&C) account for around half of the EU's energy consumption, with space heating taking the largest share of the EU’s final energy demand for H&C, followed by process heating and hot water. In addition, the EU's H&C sector is largely based on fossil fuels. According to the RES-Directive, the share of renewable energy sources (RES) in H&C increased from 8.5% in 2004 to 17.5% in 2017.

While both the RES-H&C shares and their annual rates vary strongly between the Member States, some major barriers are currently preventing a faster uptake of RES in H&C in most countries. These include technical barriers (e.g. space needed, temperature levels required, local resources available), organisational and market barriers (e.g. installers only change their business models slowly and lack experience with RES technologies, consumers demand a similar technology when replacing an old boiler) as well as economic barriers (e.g. economic attractiveness of natural gas boilers in most countries, high upfront investments needed for RES technologies). Furthermore, these barriers and market elements as well as resource availability not only vary by country, they are also very specific to a particular region or even city.

Furthermore, H&C markets are diverse across countries. While Sweden and Denmark have well-established and mature district heating sectors, there is hardly any district heating in place in Portugal and Spain. District heating in Romania was widely used in the past, but this has been allowed to deteriorate and now has a very bad reputation. H&C in the UK and the Netherlands are strongly dominated by these countries' locally available natural gas resources, while countries with widespread forested areas like Austria and Sweden have high shares of biomass in their heating systems. These examples illustrate the diversity of national heat markets. Consequently, not only the status-quo, but also the future transition pathways and the required policy mixes will vary by country.

The aim of this project is to provide the analytical basis for implementation and development of policies needed to ensure a seamless pathway to full decarbonisation of the H&C sector by 2050 in buildings and industry. The project will analyse the prerequisites for ensuring a seamless transition between the Clean Energy Package and the EU long-term 2050 decarbonisation objectives.

As a project partner, Fraunhofer ISI focuses on policy measures and the modelling of decarbonisation pathways. Fraunhofer ISI works on policy recommendations for the legal, regulatory and investment framework required for the realisation of the different decarbonisation pathways, and models very detailed and disaggregated scenarios, pathways and measures to decarbonise H&C through RES.

This overarching objective will be reached by fulfilling the following specific objectives:

  • Establishing economic potentials of RES-H&C supply deployment using individual and district (communal) solutions
  • Recommending measures and setting milestones and the necessary enabling legal, regulatory and investment framework to realise these potentials via scenarios and portfolios of measures within the context of the EU 2030 and 2050 climate and energy objectives, and beyond
  • Performing highly detailed and disaggregated modelling of specific scenarios, pathways and measures to decarbonise H&C through RES
  • Establishing quantified milestones of RES-H&C deployment, and providing benchmarks to assess the progress in mainstreaming renewables in the heating and cooling sector

In 2023, the final report was published: Renewable heating and cooling pathways. Towards full deacarbonisation by 2050


November 2020 - July 2022


European Commission, DG ENER


  • Oeko-Institut (project coordinator)
  • Technical University of Vienna
  • e-think - energy research GmbH
  • Halmstad University
  • Fraunhofer ISI