Heat Roadmap Europe II - 2050   27-05-2013   Download

Heat Roadmap Europe study highlights cost-saving effects of combining energy savings in buildings with District Heating

The European Union can save at least 100 billion EUR by comprehensively addressing heating and cooling in its Energy and Climate Framework 2030. The new study, which comes as the second component of a large research effort, was performed by Aalborg University, Halmstad University and Ecofys on the initiative of Euroheat & Power

Main findings of the study

Cheaper comfort

Rising energy prices and fuel poverty are a major concern for all European governments. The study shows that ambitious targets can be achieved while keeping comfort affordable and without compromising on quality of life and health. While being ambitious to the limit of what can realistically be deemed feasible in terms of future reduction of space heat demands, additional cost savings identified by refining the energy efficiency scenario originally proposed by the EU amount to at least EUR 100 billion/year and up to EUR 146 billion/year due to a reduction of the costs for the total heating and cooling supply for buildings in the range of 15 to 22%. 

Faster decarbonisation

Redesigning the heating and cooling supply as proposed in the study provides a fast-track solution to overcoming the constraints of compact urban environments and bringing renewable energies into cities. The HRE-EE scenario tables on the efficient use of combined heat and power, biomass, solar thermal, large-scale heat pumps, individual heat pumps, geothermal energy, as well as heat from waste incineration and excess heat from industry. At the same time, the HRE-EE scenario introduces additional flexibility to the EU-EE scenario that facilitates the integration of more wind and photovoltaic power in the electricity sector. 

Better energy

The HRE-EE scenario creates a more diverse energy supply than any other EU scenario, improves the security of supply and also creates welfare and jobs within smart communities in Europe. The HRE-EE scenario uses no-regrets technologies that ensure flexibility and help avoiding lock-in effects.


As a result, the study provides recommendations for redesigning the European heat supply with a view to achieving a well integrated energy system that effectively and efficiently delivers the benefits outlined above.

Based on the analysis, the authors consider that while lowering energy consumption in buildings is essential, District Heating and Cooling (DHC) are no-regrets options to lower the price tag under any scenario. The study shows that energy efficiency in buildings should not be considered in isolation but optimized by taking into account efficiency in energy supply, notably by expanding District Heating and Cooling and targeting reduction of fossil primary energy rather than final energy.
Re-designing the heat and cooling supply in Europe accordingly will contribute to making any chosen decarbonisation path more robust and affordable. The identified cost reductions will benefit European citizens from the most vulnerable customer to businesses and ultimately Europe’s competitiveness.


Heat Roadmap Europe 2050

First study for EU27

Focus on heat and bottom-up approach reveals considerable energy benefits for Europe:
All in one package, using simple and proven technology! District Heating.

Save money

More district heating in Europe will reduce the energy system costs considerably since local heat recycling and renewable energy use will reduce expensive energy imports, while also increasing the efficiency of both electricity and heat sectors. The overall annual cost reduction in the heating sector can be about €14 billion by 2050. This corresponds to a relative cost decrease of 11%. Socio-economic payback time is estimated to be two to three years for heat distribution pipes put into the ground to recycle more heat. Balance-of-payment benefit come in addition to all this, but have, however, not been attempted quantified.

Get more jobs

More district heating will also generate local jobs since investments will replace expensive imports of fossil fuels to Europe. Approximately 200-220.000 jobs will be created in Europe due to local investments in heat recycling, renewable energy supply, and extended or new heat grids.

Reduce emissions

Since fossil fuels are substituted with local resources, the reduced primary energy supply from fossil fuels will also reduce emissions of carbon dioxide for all heat demands served by district heating systems, with up to 13-17 %.
Secure energy supply
The reduced energy import will also increase the future security of supply and give more positive balances of foreign exchange.

Smarter energy systems
District heating can also enable higher penetrations of intermittent electricity production in the future European electricity supply system. With a high proportion of variable renewable electricity supply, a smart energy system is crucial so that all sectors can contribute to a balance supply and demand. One of the proven flexible partners is district heating systems which can provide balancing power in both directions, with electric boilers and large heat pumps together with thermal storages absorbing excess electricity generation, while combined heat and power plants actively supporting the electricity supply system during power deficits.

Expand what we already have
60 million EU citizens today are served by district heating systems. But cities with at least one system have a total population of 140 million inhabitants and approximately 57% of the EU population lives in regions that have at least one district heating system. Hence, more sustainable heat can be easily delivered in the future by expanding existing district heating systems.

The study

In this study, ambitious but realistic growth rates are assessed for district heating in the EU27 until 2050. The methodology is a combination of hour-by-hour energy modelling of the EU27 energy system and mapping of local conditions. The study finds that deliveries from district heating in the EU can grow by a factor of 2.1 until 2030 and by a factor of 3.3 until 2050.

The European Commission’s Energy Roadmap 2050 foresees only a very modest growth in the future for district heating. Due to low geographical resolution, traditional energy modelling based on national energy balances excludes specific local possibilities, and favours generic possibilities available everywhere, such as electric and gas. Traditional energy tools also work with low time resolution. It is important to use a high time resolution to capture the daily variations in the energy system to verify the true variability in energy demand and supply, especially in a future with high penetrations of intermittent resources.

Many energy sources

The point of the mapping of local conditions is to present the most suitable regions (hot spots) for future expansion of district heating systems by combining information about heat demands with information about available heat sources for each region. The local conditions considered are heat demands in urban areas, thermal power generation, biomass and waste availability, and solar and geothermal district heating.

Less than half of the calorific value of waste incinerated in 414 waste-to-energy plants is currently recovered as electricity or heat. This gives a driving force for increasing the heat recycling from the existing plants. Further waste-to-energy plants can be implemented, as almost 100 million tonnes of non-recycled waste is deposited in landfills.

One quarter of the European population lives in urban areas that could be reached by geothermal heat through future district heating systems. This includes major cities such as Hamburg, Berlin, Munich, Frankfurt am Main, Hanover, Stuttgart, Aalborg, Groningen, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Paris, Lyon, Strasbourg, Barcelona, Budapest and Bratislava.

In summary, the mapping of the study indicated that the market shares for district heating for buildings can be increased to 30% in 2030 and 50% in 2050.

Compared to today

The starting point is the existing EU27 energy system. A detailed breakdown of the 2009 EU27 energy balance was used to represent the 2010 reference point. From the EU27 energy balance from the IEA, it is evident that district heating accounts for approximately 12% of the total residential and services heat demand in 2009.

This 2010 historical reference is then modelled on an hour-by hour basis using the energy system analysis tool EnergyPLAN, and a first draft evaluation of expanding district heating in Europe is carried out from the present 12% to first 30% and afterwards to 50% of the heating of buildings.

The benefits are illustrated in two steps. Step 1 shows the potential energy efficiency improvements connected with combined heat and power (CHP) while step 2 shows the additional potential of increasing the use of industrial waste heat, waste incineration, geothermal and solar thermal resources.

As can be seen in step 1, the expansion of district heating and CHP would decrease the fuel consumption for heating buildings in Europe substantially. Compared to current situation, it would deliver a decrease in the European primary energy consumption of 7%, in fossil fuel use by 9%, and in carbon dioxide emissions by 13%, while still supplying the exact same energy services. It should be noted, that the potential for fuel savings is most likely higher than calculated in this study, since there are additional alternatives which could also be implemented, like conversion of electrical heating.

Step 2 illustrates further benefits of district heating by increased waste incineration, use of geothermal and solar heat and increased use of industrial excess heat. Since these measures represent the replacement of fuels rather than efficiency improvements, they will only slightly decrease the primary energy consumption further. However the share of fossil fuels as well as the carbon dioxide emissions will be reduced substantially. If both step 1 and 2 are implemented, then the total fossil fuels in Europe are reduced by 13% and the carbon dioxide emissions by 17%, compared to 2010.

Combined with other policies in 2030 and 2050

Additional to the above estimation of benefits from expanded district heating in the present 2010 EU27 system, the analyses have also been carried out for a reference scenario representing the implementation of current EU27 energy policy until 2050. This is based on the Current Policy Initiatives (EU CPI) scenario in the “Energy Roadmap 2050” report. This scenario represents a business-as-usual forecast for the EU27 energy system if existing policies are followed. Assumed trends included in the EU CPI scenario are:
  • Nuclear power initially reduced but bounces back to 2010 levels in 2050
  • EU 20-20-20 targets for renewable energy, greenhouse gas emissions, and energy savings are achieved
  • Gradual increase in the average thermal efficiencies of the European power sector
  • Heating demands for buildings decreases but increases substantially in industry
The calculated CPI reference demonstrates a decrease in fuel consumption for heating in buildings due to energy savings, but if district heating is expanded at the same time then even more substantial fuel savings and carbon dioxide reductions will be achieved due to a combined increase in energy efficiency in electricity and heat production.

Jobs and investments

The study also includes a rough estimate of costs which indicate that, using the same fuel prices as forecasted in the Energy Roadmap 2050, the implementation of the district heating expansion scenario will decrease the total costs of heating buildings in Europe by approximately €14 billion/year in 2050.

Even more importantly, investing in district heating alternative will transfer money from importing fossil fuels to investments in district heating pipelines, CHP plants, geothermal, solar thermal, industrial waste heat, and waste incineration. The study includes a rough estimate of the minimum number of work places created, which is around 8-9 million man years. Equal to approximately 220,000 new jobs on average over the 38 year period from 2013 to 2050.The real number will be higher because the estimate includes neither multiplier effects of direct employment and improved competitiveness’ of European industry nor additional jobs from industrial innovation due to the investments in new energy technologies.


It is important to communicate the local possibilities for district heating to urban and regional planners. The methodology applied in this study, which is a combination of energy modelling and mapping of the local conditions using a high geographical resolution, is crucial for district heating analysis, since the potential for expansion is dependent on local heat resources and demands.

There is a need for recognition and increased details of the heat sector in energy policy analysis and the energy balances employed, so that specific local possibilities are included and policy is and focus only on generic possibilities (electricity and gas) is avoided. Only then would energy analysis fully capture the alternatives available. Similarly, traditional energy tools should employ high time resolution to include the daily variations in the energy system and the true variability in energy demand and supply. This is a particularly important with a future energy system with high penetrations of intermittent resources.

A continuation of this study is planned, and the methodology employed should be elaborated to make a tighter connection between the energy modelling part and the local mapping part. It should contain a creation of an interactive internet tool providing the local conditions for district heating for each administrative region in the EU27.


Heat Roadmap Europe 2050 (study)   04-06-2012   Download