Heating and cooling

16 Feb 22

The European heating market is ready to phase out fossil gas – a joint call from NGOs and industry

Findings from the latest domestic heating market analysis reveal the companies leading the renewable heating transition in Europe. These industry front-runners, together with the largest European network of environmental NGOs, call on legislators to support heating’s green transformation in a joint press release.

The European Environmental Bureau (EEB), on behalf of Coolproducts campaign, just released the second edition of the Brand Audit of European Heating Manufacturers, a ranking exercise that rates domestic heating firms according to the climate-friendliness of their portfolios.

With 19 out of 49 companies surveyed ranking as climate leaders this year, the study shows that the European heating sector is ready to move away from fossil fuels. This is a large leap forward compared to 2020 findings, in which only 5 out of 53 companies surveyed qualified for the leader rank.

Positive climate snapshot of the market

Leading the way for renewable heating, the 19 companies who ranked as leaders have a portfolio consisting mostly of heating systems based on on-site renewable energy —such as heat pumps and solar thermal systems. This means that their portfolios are compatible with European and international climate objectives, according to the EEB’s analysis.

Of varying sizes, and operating in different European countries, these 19 climate leaders are driving the market towards decarbonisation ahead of legislation.

The study sends a clear and encouraging message to lawmakers: the heating market is ready to phase out fossil fuels and embrace renewable solutions in Europe.

Legislators are invited to follow 

Not only are these market leaders taking charge in the renewable transition, they are calling on policy makers to follow suit. Europe’s heating transition is in a crucial legislative moment. The European Union (EU) is currently discussing several pieces of policy that aim at ensuring that European buildings play their part in decarbonising the economy: the Energy Performance Building Directive recast; the revision of the Ecodesign and Energy Labelling regulations for heating systems; and several energy files under the Fit For 55 package.

The report’s findings also reveal massive support for policy measures that would drive the market to follow on the heels of these leaders. 21 out of 23 of the responding companies support an end to subsidies for fossil fuel heating, while 19 out of 23 support a ban on the sales of fossil fuel heating systems. 

The demand for a coherent set of legislative measures and incentives from European policymakers is growing from all fronts. A legislative commitment to green heat would provide certainty for manufacturers, and it would ensure that all European consumers can access the benefits of switching from fossil to renewable heating.

Speaking from the NGO side, Marco Grippa, Programme Manager, Environmental Coalition on Standards (ECOS), says:

“Renewable heating is more efficient and environmentally friendly than fossil fuel based appliances. This is why progressive manufacturers are calling for a push from public authorities. Our Coolproducts study shows that industry pioneers are ready to steer the market and support the end of fossil fuel heating. Through legislative measures and subsidies, policymakers can and should foster a sustainable transition toward heating decarbonisation. We have very little time left!”

Heating decarbonisation matters

Equipped with readily available technology and growing support from the industry, any political delays in the renewable transition for heating will be unfounded.

Davide Sabaddin, Energy expert at the EEB, says:

“Findings prove the market is ready to enter into the renewable heating era and that the voice of front leaders is too often unheard in the policy debate. From the climate crisis to soaring energy prices, heat pumps and solar thermal heating offer the best available solution to the energy challenge. It’s high time that decision makers support this transition and ensure that we can heat our homes without heating the planet”.

Time is in fact running out for the EU to decarbonise the heating sector. If fossil fuel boilers continue to be sold and installed in European buildings beyond 2025, there is a risk that they will still be in place in 2050, when the EU should be climate-neutral. Simply to reach the EU’s 55% reduction target of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2030, the European Commission estimates that we should reduce buildings’ GHG emissions by at least 60% during this decade. 

Renewable heating represents, together with building renovation and other energy efficiency measures, the best-placed solution to reach this climate goal in time. With fossil gas prices more than quadrupling since last year, heat pumps and solar thermal systems will play a key role in reducing Europeans’ energy bills. They will also help diminish the EU’s dependence on Russian gas —over 40% of the gas the EU imports is used for heating buildings.

A renewable transition in heating is needed, but it is ready to launch. With the industry onboard, all that we need is the political will. Legislators should be emboldened by the positive outcome of this survey, and seize this legislative window of opportunity to support measures that would bolster the uptake of renewable heating in Europe.