Heating and Cooling


Heating and cooling includes a wide range of end-use applications and technologies. In the buildings sector, it includes water heating, ambient heating, ambient cooling and refrigeration. In industry, besides ambient heating and cooling, it also includes process heating — from low temperature applications (e.g. in the food industry) to high temperature applications (e.g. in the cement, iron and steel industries). Heating and cooling for residential, commercial and industrial purposes accounts for a large share of total final energy demand. For example, in the EU, heating and cooling in buildings and industry accounts for half of energy consumption, heating and hot water alone account for 79% of total final energy use (192.5 Mtoe).  Currently, demand for heating in buildings and industry outweighs demand for cooling. However, the latter is gradually catching up, especially due to increasing demand for air conditioning or refrigeration of food and medical supplies. For example, according to the EU, by 2030 the energy used to cool buildings across Europe is likely to increase by 72%, while the energy used for heating buildings will fall by 30%. Nevertheless in the following we focus on heating in buildings, as the largest shareholder.

Approximately 75% of EU’s heating and cooling is still generated from fossil fuels while only 22% is generated from renewable energy. This share must be drastically changed to fulfil the EU’s climate and energy goals.


The Renewable Energy Directive and its recast (RED II) do not contain specific targets for the share of renewable heat consumption.

The first targets for renewable heat production were set by the 2012 Energy Efficiency Directive (EED, 2012/27/EU). The EED required Member States to carry out a comprehensive assessment and cost-benefit analysis of the feasibility of high-efficiency cogeneration (based on useful heat demand) and efficient district heating[1]. Where the benefits outweigh the costs, Member States are to take appropriate measures to develop efficient district heating/cooling infrastructure.

The 2018 Renewable Directive (RED II) sets out a number of specific requirements for the use of renewable energy sources for heating. On one hand, it requires Member States to increase the share of renewable energy in the heating and cooling sector by an indicative annual average of 1.3 percentage points from 2021 onwards. On the other hand, it obliges Member States to set a minimum level of RES in their building regulations for new buildings and buildings subject to major renovation, if economically and technically feasible.

RED II also sets a quantified target for the district heating sector to increase the share of renewable and waste heat: Member States shall seek to increase the share of renewable energy, waste heat and waste cooling in their district heating and cooling systems by 1 percentage point annually. District heating companies are obliged to connect providers with these heat sources to their network unless it is not feasible, in which case they have to submit detailed reasoning and list the conditions for possible connection.

The above-mentioned directives are generally applicable for the EU Member States although some can be modified according to specific local conditions.


The heating and cooling sector plays a very important role in reaching the overarching RES targets of the EUDRS countries.  All EUSDR countries aim to mitigate fossil fuel reliance mainly through biomass applications. Renewable heat represents more than 20% of heat demand with the exception of Germany, Hungary and Slovakia, and 5 countries have shares around 40% or higher (BA, UA, ME, MD and HR). Biomass use of the residential heating sector is responsible for most of this renewable use by burning wood (often mixed with coal or trash) in outdated, heavily polluting stoves. There are no plans in any of the countries to replace these inefficient biomass-fired installations, only the change of fossil-based heating systems will be mandated or supported (for example in Austria, Germany, Romania, Slovenia, and Bulgaria).

Share of renewable energy sources in final heat consumption, 2018 and 2020 targets (%)

Source: REKK based on EUROSTAT, BA, UA and MD: Progress Reports on RES, EnC


Compared to other energy sectors, the heating and cooling sector does not have well established, continuous forms of support like the feed-in-tariff or premium system in the renewable electricity sector. The most common form of promoting RES-H is investment support, which is usually provided inconsistently. District heating receives most of the support for renovations and RES integration.

Policies and measures that support the deployment of renewable fuels in the sector can be grouped into the following categories:

  • regulatory measures: these measures aim to establish the proper administrative processes, frameworks, and procedures that remove regulatory obstacles impeding renewable growth,
  • financial instruments: support schemes that reduce upfront investment costs (investment support), allow for stable and/or preferential revenues (operating support, price subsidy, tax exemption), or take the form of refundable aids and guarantees of origin
  • infrastructure: measures to promote the deployment of new district heating systems and renovations and measures regarding individual heating installations,
  • promotion of RES fuels: this group of measures includes targeted promotion of specific renewable fuels or technologies, incentives to replace fossil fuel installations, and general information and awareness raising programs.

As a result of the different measures most of the EUSDR countries envision very ambitious RES share goals compared to the present status. The only exception is Croatia where the current share is already very high. Most countries expect that their additional measures will have a substantial effect, resulting in 2-3 times larger increase in RES shares compared to the WEM scenarios (except HR). The biggest difference can be observed between the Hungarian scenarios, where the additional measures result in more than eight times larger growth in RES share than the scenario with existing measures.

Share of Renewable energy in the H&C sector (%)

Source: REKK based on SHARES database, NECPs of the presented countries (WEM: with existing measures, WAM: with additional measures)


Slovenia is the only country which aims to reduce biomass usage, and Croatia and Slovakia plan to keep it at a nearly constant level but outside of these three countries it will grow 15-47% compared to 2018. The expected expansion of solar heat is mostly concentrated in Hungary and Slovakia, with expected 2030 values 4-6 times higher than in 2018. Along with Czechia, they are the most ambitious for promotion of heat pumps. However, the share of these technologies stays at 30% or lower in 2030.

Expected use of RES technologies in the H&C sector 2030, ktoe

Source: EUROSTAT, NECPs. Note: n/a – data are non-available. In the German NECP „other” category includes all RES technologies except biomass, Romanian NECP includes projections only for heat pumps and derived heat (other).

Although geothermal energy for heating could be available for more than 25% of the EU population, it receives little attention in NECPs. The dense structure of district heating infrastructure in Central and Eastern Europe would be well complimented by geothermal energy.

Geothermal district heating and heat use in industry, agriculture and other sectors represent 5,5 GWth installed capacity in 327 systems across 25 European countries. 5 DR countries are among the top 10 in the EU (Germany, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Serbia), with Germany and Hungary having the highest deployment rate. Both countries support geothermal energy through various programs, although the pace of planned deployment and exploitation is not in line with the potential.

Slovakia has moderate targets, while Romania and Serbia are behind owing to complex and long licencing procedures. From the other countries with significant untapped potential Croatia has several plants under development and envisage further deployment, but Austria and Slovenia do not set any related NECP targets. In Ukraine geothermal research and utilization is at a very early stage, and other non-EU DR countries do not include geothermal development in their strategies (BA, BG, ME, MD). Even though geothermal energy could contribute significantly to reaching the decarbonisation goals and alleviating fossil fuel dependency, it receives little emphasis in the NECPs and energy strategies of the DR.

Biomass is the primary renewable energy option for the majority of the EUSDR countries, as an affordable and ubiquitous alternative for household heating. The socioeconomics of household biomass is gaining prominence on the agenda of some EUSDR countries. The plans for biomass-to-heat are much less ambitious than in biomass-based power generation (24% increase between 2018-2030 in biomass-to-heat in contrast with the expected 168% increase in biomass-based electricity), despite the fact that biomass-to-heat technologies have a minimum net energy efficiency rate of 70-80% compared to the 30-40% efficiency of power generation. Except for Slovenia (who intends to reduce its biomass-to-heat share by 30%), the Danube Region countries (including non-EU) aim to increase biomass heating from 22,7 Mtoe (2018) to 28,1 Mtoe (2030). Biomass expansion has to be considered in a full climate policy aspect, as its growth threatens to lose a significant part of the LULUCF carbon stocks and the corresponding carbon sequestration potential.


Austria is working on a targeted ‘Heating Strategy’ expected to be completed in 2020. The aim of the strategy is to mitigate dependency on fossil fuels and instead relying on biomass, solar heat, and ambient heat. In addition, the existing contribution of heat from waste management and industrial waste heat is planned to be maintained and possibly expanded. Bulgaria aims to reduce the country’s final energy consumption in the heating and cooling sector 2% by 2030 from 2020, building partly on the decrease of district heating losses. The planned growth in biomass consumption includes the use of biodegradable waste, which will grow from 36 ktoe (414 GWh) in 2020 to 75 ktoe (873 GWh) in 2030.

Czechia has reached its RES target (20.7 % in 2018) and would find even the lowered, 1.1 percent annual growth, problematic. Germany adopted the Energy Efficiency Strategy for Buildings in 2015, which is based on decarbonised district heating and funding programmes to support biomass boilers and heat pumps in individual heating. Hungary builds on the efficient use of biomass in both individual heating equipment and in district heating and geothermal energy in district heating. Romania’s goals are based on the availability of sustainable biomass, backed by heat pumps or solar panels on rooftops. According to Slovenia’s NECP, energy consumption in the heating and cooling sector is expected to fall by 4746 GWh in 2030. Slovenia supports renewable energy use of buildings.

In the non-EU DR countries, in Bosnia and Herzegovina RES based energy usage in the sector will increase 34.6 % by 2030. Moldova set a 27% target in the heating and cooling sector for 2020 compared to 19.36% in 2009. Montenegro aims to double the country’s renewable energy consumption in the heating and cooling sector from 61.2 to 121.5 ktoe between 2009-2020, leading to a 38.2% RES share in 2020. The national RES-H target of the Serbian H&C sector is 36.6% in 2020, up from 25.6% in 2009. Ukraine still promotes natural gas in individual heating as well as in CHPs. However, the country points out ambitions to increase the RES share to 12.4% by 2020 from 3.4% in 2009.


EU climate plan for 2030 and its revision

Paris Agreement (2015)

Energy Union Strategy (2015)

“Clean Energy for All Europeans” package (2016)

European Green Deal

European Climate Law COM(2020) 80 final

EU Strategy for Heating and Cooling (2016) COM(2016) 51 final

Recast of the Renewable Energy Directive (RED II) (2018)

A Renovation Wave for Europe – greening our buildings, creating jobs, improving lives (2020): COM(2020) 662 final

EU Directive 2012/27/EU on Energy Efficiency (2012) 





EuroHEAT – https://www.euroheat.org/

Heat Roadmap Europe – https://heatroadmap.eu/

International Energy Agency – https://www.iea.org/fuels-and-technologies/gas

European Commission (Energy) – https://ec.europa.eu/energy/topics/energy-efficiency/heating-and-cooling_en

EUROSTAT (data) – https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/web/energy/data/main-tables

World Energy portal – https://www.world-energy.org/

European Technology and Innovation Platform on Renewable Heating and Cooling: https://www.rhc-platform.org/

IRENA – https://www.irena.org/heatingcooling

[1] District heating systems using at least 50% renewable energy, 50% waste heat, 75% cogenerated heat or 50% of a combination of such energy and heat (EED).