How to make the home heating and cooling revolution consumer-friendly

BEUC NEWS

80% of consumers still heat their homes with fossil fuels but this will need to change as Europe plans to become carbon neutral by 2050. The average lifetime of heating appliances is 15-20 years, so consumers’ purchasing decisions made in the next decade will define not only how consumers heat their homes in 2050, but also the EU’s ability to hit its carbon target.

 

The problem is, consumers are facing at best uncertainty, if not a complete lack of communication, about the future direction of the energy market. Since the energy market can be quite technical and complex, consumers will need tailored advice on how to become more sustainable. For example, on whether to buy a gas boiler or a heat pump. The upfront costs of sustainable heating appliances are also a barrier, so consumers will need financial support for it.

Shifting to clean heating is not simply a matter of enabling consumers to switch to clean heating systems. It also needs clear planning from governments as the change will require a coordinated contribution from a wide range of industry stakeholders.

To make the heating and cooling decarbonisation consumer-centric: 

  • EU countries should develop national heating and cooling decarbonisation plans to set a clear direction of travel, so consumers know where to invest their money
  • EU countries should support consumers’ investments in sustainable heating systems, as upfront costs are a barrier to switch
  • Electricity system operators need to invest in their networks to accommodate increased electricity demand. For these investments to be cost-effective, they need to know how much the electricity demand will increase and to what extent it will be flexible
  • For consumers to adopt more flexible electricity consumption habits, companies specialised in demand response will need to make offers available to consumers. The technical/regulatory barriers to consumer take-up of demand response need to be overcome
  • Heat pump manufacturers need to scale up their production to make their products more available and affordable to consumers
  • Installers need to be well-trained to be able to implement new systems

Heating and cooling represents roughly one third of the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions, as only 21% of this is covered by renewables today. This will need to change. The EU will only reach its climate neutrality goal if EU and national policy makers adopt a consumer-centric and systematic approach to decarbonising what is one of Europe’s most polluting activities: heating and cooling.

Read our on how policy-makers can get consumers on board the heating and cooling revolution.