Renewable-ready: Heating industry leads the clean heat transition, calls on policies to follow

For the third year in a row, heating manufacturers show their commitments to walking the clean heat transition walk, and they are calling on the lawmakers to commit to the clean heat transition talk – starting with a fossil fuel phase-out.

According to the European Environmental Bureau’s latest audit of the heating industry through the Coolproducts campaign, 38 heating companies based in Europe have shown a commitment to a fossil-free product line, unprompted by policies and requirements. 

Among these frontrunners, 17 leading companies are joining forces with environmental NGOs in calling for the end of subsidies, and eventually the sale, of fossil fuel boilers.  

89% of respondents to our industry survey indicate that they would support the end of subsidies for fossil heating (Source: The Coolest Heating 2023 )

Out with the old 

Currently, 40% of EU gas imports are used for buildings and their energy consumption, the majority of which goes to heating. As long as 75% of European houses continue to rely on archaic boilers powered by fossil fuels, and subsidies still support old technologies, European citizens will continue to be dependent on a finite, polluting, and insecure source of energy to warm their homes. 

Many EU member states continue to support fossil boilers via subsidy schemes.
(Source: Impact of of a ban on fossil heating technologies on NECPS and national energy dependency )

Phasing out the old technology is an important step towards European security, energy independence, resilience against current and future crises, and mitigation of the impacts fossil fuels have on climate and society. Future-forward industry players were quick to see this and have already taken actions in offering a fossil-free product line, and are now calling for policy’s support. 

…In with the renewable 

The support of industry weighs in at a key moment of new EU heating and building laws in the pipeline, many of which are considering the phase-out of fossil boilers. 

The next months will see the finalisation of the recast of both the Energy Efficiency Directive (EED) and Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) as well as the Ecodesign and Energy Labelling regulations for heating systems. The EU is well-equipped with the right toolkits to end fossil fuels’ reign over Europe and decarbonise one of our greatest sources of energy consumption. 

If successful, these advancements towards renewable heating will be critical in achieving many climate, energy and security targets on both EU and national levels. By phasing out gas boilers alone, according to a recent Coolproducts study, the EU on average can reduce as much as 21% of Russian gas import, far beyond the voluntary agreement set out by REPowerEU – Europe’s answer to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.  

Savings of gas consumption based on start year of phase-out for fossil boilers
(Source: Impact of of a ban on fossil heating technologies on NECPS and national energy dependency )

However, despite the benefits renewable heating can bring to citizens, climate and industry alike, the latest policy development is set for disastrous delays.   

Gas and hydrogen lobbyists fired up 

In a last-minute change, the agreed-on text for EPBD supports almost unlimited use of gas to heat EU buildings as part of “hybrid systems”, as well as keeping gas boilers in our homes until as long as 2049 – crumbling any hope of meeting EU 2030 climate goals.  

With people, planet and even industry players calling for change, policymakers are passing up on a golden opportunity to sharply reduce EU dependence on oil and gas lords, and protect their citizens from sky-high energy bills and future crises, all for a few more years of fossil fuel companies’ profits. Members of European Parliament must urgently reel back this decision, and bring the phase-out date to beginning 2025, before the file goes to vote in plenary in mid-March. 

“The pressure of the fossil gas lobby managed to keep gas boilers back in the picture, disguised as a climate solution that will run on future – unrealistic and even more expensive- hydrogen or other green gases. In reality, people will burn gas to keep warm for 15 more years, even in their renovated homes.” 

Davide Sabbadin, Deputy Policy Manager for Climate, European Environmental Bureau. 

Sure-fire solution 

Unlike the wild dreams of gas and hydrogen lobbyists, renewable heating represents, coupled with renovations and other energy efficiency measures, the best-placed and most mature solution to reaching many of Europe’s security, energy and climate goals in time. If ambitious enough, the different pieces of legislation would help align Europe’s objectives, financial incentives, training and restrictions towards a fossil-free heating future. 

Our citizens and our planet need more reliable, more efficient, and more affordable heating, and industrial players have taken the first strides towards the much-needed change. It’s time for legislators to put their foot down, support the clean heat transition, and match these leaders stride for stride.