The current discussion around the Energy Union represents a golden opportunity to set up and implement a true EU heating and cooling policy in line with long term climate and energy goals, and based on energy efficiency and the switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources.
So far, EU energy policies have not sufficiently focused on the heating and cooling sector, which is still largely dominated by fossil fuels. Nearly 80% of the gross heat generation in the EU was provided by gas, coal and oil in 2011 . This situation is economically, environmentally and socially unsustainable.
The current security of supply concern, mainly due to the EU’s heavy dependence on natural gas from Russia, is first and foremost a heating issue. Indeed, 61% of EU imported gas is used in buildings .
In spite of this reality, the EU has been focusing mostly on diversifying its sources of gas instead of reducing demand and diversifying the sources of heat to cover that demand. As an example, several of the investments discussed, such as gas pipelines, will not give short term solutions but will create a long term lock-in effect for gas, without reducing our energy dependency.
It is therefore high time to develop a comprehensive EU heating and cooling strategy/action plan, based on the reduction of energy use through energy efficiency, and combined with a rapid switch to the various renewable heating and cooling technologies, also looking at the synergies offered by a systematic approach that combines the power and heating/cooling sectors.
Such a development will simultaneously allow the EU to tackle issues such as the decarbonisation of our energy system, energy security and energy poverty.
Download: Position paper ‘Towards a 100% renewable heating and cooling sector’
 EU Energy in figures, Statistical Pocketbook 2013, p. 99