EU pathways to a decarbonised building sector: how replacing inefficient heating systems can help reach the EU climate ambitions

A heating system change in 8.5 million households per year in Europe can contribute to a significant 18.5% drop in emissions in the upcoming fifteen years. To help the association of the European Heating Industry quantify the possible contribution from heating in view of EU 2030 targets, Ecofys has performed a scenario evaluation of the European residential heating sector. Ecofys evaluated how an accelerated replacement of decentralised heating systems in existing buildings and future developments in low carbon heating technologies can contribute to reach EU energy and climate saving targets. Key elements to reduce carbon dioxide emissions are on the one hand reduction of delivered energy and carbon dioxide emissions by installing higher efficient heating systems with low carbon energy carriers and a reduction of energy need by improving the building shell and the ventilation systems. The scenario outcomes show that the energy need of European residential buildings can be reduced by 12%, the delivered energy by 19% and that carbon dioxide emissions can be lowered by 18.5% with realistic assumptions from the heating industry on future developments in the heating market in 2030 compared to 2015. Comparing the scenario results to the EU carbon reduction target for 2030 based on the EU “Roadmap for moving to a competitive low carbon economy in 2050”, it can be concluded that the acceleration of heating system replacements and the heating system mix developments – in combination with an energy need reduction – lead to carbon dioxide emissions in 2030 ranging within the EU target corridor.