New EurObserv’ER report: The sales of renewable energy heating technologies are gaining momentum in some European countries

The 18th report on “The State of Renewable Energies in Europe” highlights the dynamic growth of renewable energies in the heating sector – especially heat pumps. The 2018 edition also reveals an increase in the total share of renewable energies from 17% in 2016 to 17.5% in 2017.

The 18th “State of Renewable Energies in Europe” report was prepared by the EurObserv'ER project group comprising Observ'ER (FR), Fraunhofer ISI (DE), ECN part of TNO (NL), Renewables Academy (DE), Frankfurt School of Finance and Management (DE), and Statistics Netherlands (NL), and documents a slight growth in the share of renewable energy (RE) in the EU: Compared to 17% in 2016, the EU-28 reached a renewable energy share of 17.5% in gross final energy consumption (GFEC) in 2017.

The current growth rate of 0.5 percentage points will not be sufficient to meet the European 2020 target of 20% renewable energy sources in final energy consumption; it needs to be at least 0.83 percentage points every year between 2018 and 2020. The European Union in total will only have a chance of hitting the target  if the current strong growth in some countries does not slow down, even once they have achieved their RE targets.

The report also indicates a 30.7% share of renewable energies in total EU electricity generation (compared to 29.6% in 2016) and a 19.5% renewable energy share in total 2017 EU heat/cooling consumption (compared to 19.0% in 2016).

Dr. Barbara Breitschopf, research associate in the Competence Center Energy Policy and Energy Markets at Fraunhofer ISI underlines that this year’s report focuses on the market sale shares of renewable energy technologies in the heating sector: “This indicator reveals what is going on at present – it shows the dynamics in the market. The new EurObserv’ER report reveals that heat pumps have conquered the market in three of the 28 countries, and they strongly dominate sales in Estonia, Sweden (above 90%) and Finland (66%). Solar power dominates in Denmark while mix of renewable energy technologies dominates the market in Austria. Sales of fossil fuel-based technologies still account for between 65% and 98% in the remaining countries. This outstanding dominance of fossil fuel based technologies is worrying, because of their long life cycle – they will continue to shape final energy consumption in buildings for another 20 years.”

Nevertheless, there is reason for hope: solar thermal energy shows high dynamics in some countries with good solar radiation, such as in Cyprus (29% of sales) and Greece (30%). Surprisingly, Denmark has the highest dynamics (53%), while there is a more moderate development in Austria (23%), Germany (20%), Poland (16%) and Spain (14%) in solar thermal energy. Breitschopf also points out the low momentum in the sales of biomass boilers. The technology has only reached significant shares in sales in Italy (15%), France (12%) and Spain (9%).

Another focus of this year’s report is the supply mix in district heating. It depicts the mix of energy carriers in district heating in 15 countries (mainly East European and Scandinavian countries), whose share of district heating in the final energy consumption of buildings equals 10% or more. Fossil-fuel based carriers dominate the mix in most countries; renewable energy sources account for more than 50% only in the Scandinavian countries and Austria.

In light of the desired decarbonization of the heating and cooling sector, dynamic growth is required in the sales of renewable energy technologies. However, the reported sales of fossil-based energy technologies, such as gas and oil boilers, show that fossil energy will continue to play a significant role in the heating sector of many EU countries.

The positive message is that the growing share of renewable energies in Europe also brings economic benefits: The economic activity in the European renewable energy sector is estimated to translate into 1.45 million jobs in 2017 – this corresponds to an additional 18,500 jobs compared to 2016. Biomass (around 365,000 full-time equivalent jobs) and wind energy (around 357,000 FTE jobs) are still the biggest renewable employers in the EU-28.

The Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI analyzes the origins and impacts of innovations. We research the short- and long-term developments of innovation processes and the impacts of new technologies and services on society. On this basis, we are able to provide our clients from industry, politics and science with recommendations for action and perspectives for key decisions. Our expertise is founded on our scientific competence as well as an interdisciplinary and systemic research approach.