Decarbonisation & Sustainability

Renewable Energy Directive

The Renewable Energy Directive was adopted in 2009 in order to promote the production and use of energy from renewable sources in the European Union. It imposes a target to the EU as a whole to cover at least 20% of its total energy needs with renewables by 2020, specifying individual national targets for each country. The adoption by the Council of the 2030 framework for climate and energy, which raised the renewable energy target to 27% by 2030, led the European Commission to propose in November 2016 a revision of the Renewable Energy Directive, which is currently being examined by the Parliament and the Council.

Since heat pumps are recognised as a renewable energy technology under the Renewable Energy Directive, the industry actively contributes to the achievement of EU’s renewable energy targets and as such, it should be further promoted by the EU legislation.

F-Gas Regulation

F-gases are greenhouse gases with a global warming effect and account for 2% of the EU’s overall GHG emissions. F-gases can be divided into three groups, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6), but HFCs are the most relevant F-gases from a climate perspective. As part of its policy to combat climate change, the EU adopted a first F-gas Regulation in 2006 and a second one in 2015, the latter having the aim of limiting the total amount of the most important F-gases that can be sold in the EU from 2015 onwards and phasing them down in steps to one-fifth of 2014 sales in 2030. The regulation also bans the use of F-gases in many new types of equipment where less harmful alternatives are widely available, and prevents emissions of F-gases from existing equipment by requiring checks, proper servicing and recovery of the gases at the end of the equipment’s life.

Heat pumps traditionally use HFCs as refrigerants and the industry is therefore rapidly innovating to face the phase out established by the European Union F-gas Regulation. EHPA strongly supports the development and deployment by the industry of alternative refrigerants.

EU Climate Policy and Targets

The European Union has set several targets to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions progressively up to 2050 and to achieve the binding goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement. At COP 21, States committed themselves to keep the increase in global average temperature well below 2ºC above pre-industrial levels, with the aim of limiting the increase to 1.5ºC. The targets set by the European Union are included in three main initiatives: the 2020 Package, the 2030 Framework and the 2050 Roadmap.

The 2020 Climate and Energy Package, adopted by EU leaders in 2007, sets three binding targets of 20% cut in GHG emissions, 20% of EU energy from renewables and 20% improvement in energy efficiency. Building on the 2020 Package, EU leaders adopted a new framework in 2014 to help achieve a more competitive, secure and sustainable energy system and meet EU’s long-term greenhouse gas reduction objectives. The new targets for 2030 are at least 40% cuts in GHG emissions, at least 27% EU energy coming from renewables and at least 27% improvement in energy efficiency.

Finally, in order to make the European economy more climate-friendly and less energy-consuming, the European Commission adopted a 2050 roadmap that suggests cutting EU’ greenhouse gas emissions to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. To reach this target in the most cost-efficient way, it has been estimated that Europe’s should cut 40% of its emissions by 2030 and 60% by 2040.

Heat- pump technologies reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the residential, commercial and industrial sector, as they provide solutions that combine energy efficiency and the use of renewable sources. Therefore, high climate and energy targets indirectly benefit the heat-pump industry, which provides solutions that combine energy efficiency and the use of renewable sources. Heat pumps can therefore help the EU meet its 2020, 2030 and 2050 objectives and fulfil its obligations under the Paris Agreement.

Emission Trading System and Carbon Pricing

First launched in 2005, the Emissions Trading System is the most important tool implemented by the EU to fight climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions cost-effectively. It works on the ‘cap and trade’ principle, which means that a cap is set on the total amount of certain greenhouse gases that can be emitted by the installations covered by the system and that, within that cap, companies receive or buy emission allowances that they can trade with one another. In order to decrease the amount of total emissions, the cap is reduced over time. This trading system grants flexibility to companies and ensures that emissions are cut where it costs least to do so. Moreover, establishing a price on carbon encourages investments in clean and low-carbon technologies. However, the effectiveness of ETS has been limited by a large surplus of allowances and low carbon prices, due in part to the impact of the economic crises started in 2008. The European Commission therefore proposed in 2015 a reform of the system for its fourth phase, which will run from 2021 until 2030. The first step of the reform was the decision to create a Market Stability Reserve (MSR) for the ETS, which will start to operate in 2019 with the aim of correcting the large surplus and making the system more resilient in relation to supply-demand imbalances. Moreover, in the context of the regulation on the Governance of the Energy Union which is being currently negotiated, the European Parliament proposed to include the objective of bringing down to zero the amount of greenhouse gases that can be emitted in the atmosphere by 2050.

The heat-pump industry supports high national greenhouse gas emission reduction targets and the EU’s efforts to cut total emissions. The encouragement to invest in clean and low-carbon technologies due to carbon pricing indirectly benefits the heat-pump sector, as heat pumps can help EU industries reduce their emissions in a cost-effective way.

Air quality

European citizens spend in average over 90% of their time indoors. Researches have shown that the air within homes, offices, schools and other buildings can be significantly more polluted than the outdoor air, creating serious risks to public health. The main factors that generate indoor pollution are those sources that release gases or particles into the air, often coupled with high temperature and humidity levels, which can increase the concentration of some pollutants. In order to counterbalance indoor air pollution, an efficient ventilation system must be in place. When there is an inadequate level of infiltration, natural ventilation or mechanical ventilation, the air exchange rate is low and pollutant levels can increase. As a response to the growing concerns, the European Parliament included air quality provisions in the recent report on the review of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, aimed at ensuring that indoor air quality is taken into consideration when buildings undergo renovation work.

Heat pumps are key tools to create a healthy indoor environment tailored to the costumers’ preferences. They don’t generate smoke or add any fumes to the air, they support the circulation of the air in the buildings and remove dust, mould spores, odours, smoke and other particles.

Circular Economy

A circular economy is a system that preserves resources, saves costs for European industries and unlocks new business opportunities. The value of products and materials is maintained for as long as possible and when a product reaches the end of its life, it is used again to create further value, thus boosting EU’s economy, making it more sustainable and competitive in the long run.

The European Commission adopted a ‘Circular economy package’ in December 2015 with legislative proposals on Waste, Packaging Waste, Landfill and Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment, which are currently under discussion.

In January 2017, the Commission issued a report on the implementation of the Action Plan, underlining how it is closely linked with key EU priorities on jobs and growth, investments, social agenda, industrial innovation, lower energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions.

A European Strategy for Plastics was published on 16 January 2018 as part of the transition towards a more circular economy, aiming at transforming the way plastic products are designed, used, produced and recycled in the EU.

The Circular economy is an opportunity to make Europe’s economy more sustainable and competitive, thus bringing benefits to businesses, industries and consumers. The heat-pump industry is ready for this challenge. However, in the context of the necessary overall reduction of CO2 emissions (that will require the massive deployment of heat pumps), it is crucial to ensure that the cost of the technology is not raised as a consequence of any potential additional ‘resource efficiency’ requirements.  

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