Globally, the heating and cooling sectors lag “far behind” the power sector in turning to renewable energy sources, a new report has found.
REN21’s annual Renewables Global Status Report, released this week, found that while a record 70 per cent of net additions to global power generation capacity in 2017 were renewable, there has been “slow progress” in heating and cooling.
Energy use for heating and cooling accounts for nearly half of global total energy consumption, split roughly equally between heat for industrial processes and heat for use in buildings.
District heating systems supply about 11 per cent of the world’s space and water heating needs, but most are fuelled by either coal or natural gas, with the share of renewables ranging from 1 per cent in China to 42 per cent in Denmark to 90 per cent in Sweden. The top renewable fuel for district heating systems worldwide is bioenergy, accounting for 95 per cent. à‚
Overall, modern renewables supplied just 10.3 per cent of total global energy consumption for heat in 2017, the report found, while another 16.4 per cent was supplied by traditional biomass, predominantly in the developing world. While additional bio, geothermal and solar thermal heating capacities were added, growth in these sectors was very slow.
One reason for this, REN21 said, is that heat markets are complex and fragmented, which makes policymaking challenging. In addition, multiple barriers have slowed down the uptake of renewable heat. à‚ For one, fossil fuel-based heating systems can have lower capital costs, which when combined with low fuel prices can discourage a shift to renewables.
While policy options exist to address many of these barriers, the report noted that policymakers have devoted much less attention to renewable heat than to renewable electricity, finding that at the end of 2017, 48 countries had targets in place for renewable heat compared to 146 for electricity.
And according to REN21, policies aligning renewables and energy efficiency ” which often encourage the use of renewables for heating and cooling ” are common in the buildings sector, but not in industry.
By the end of 2017, at least 145 countries had energy efficiency policies in place, and at least 157 countries had energy efficiency targets. Over 60 countries have mandatory and/or voluntary energy codes for buildings. à‚
By comparison, policy mechanisms aimed at increasing the use of renewables for industrial processes are not common, the report said, although countries including Mexico and Tunisia launched new support mechanisms in 2017.