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Cities join forces to deliver energy-efficient, renewable heating and cooling

Seven cities throughout Europe are doing their part to tackle climate change by phasing out fossil fuels from heating and cooling in buildings.

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Heating and cooling (H&C) are responsible for about half of the EU’s energy consumption every year. Transitioning to energy-efficient and renewable H&C solutions is critical to bringing the EU Member States in line with their climate and energy targets. This transition must be planned immediately, but several cities are not prepared. There are many questions local authorities need to address, from the most cost-efficient solutions to replace fossil fuels to ways of engaging with citizens. However, they lack the resources, skills and capacity to do so. What is more, finding these answers requires the help of many different stakeholders, including local utilities, energy communities and policymakers at national and EU level.

Cities around Europe unite

The EU-funded DecarbCityPipes 2050 project is providing Bilbao, Bratislava, Dublin, Munich, Rotterdam, Vienna and Winterthur with the skills and knowledge needed to decarbonise H&C in buildings by 2050. The focus is on phasing out natural gas in heating. The seven cities differ in size, population, heat density, climate, existing infrastructure, renewable energy sources, planning abilities and spatial energy planning levels. This disparity will be reflected in several guidebooks for cities that are mostly planned for 2022. The guidance documents will share the knowledge acquired with other cities across Europe wishing to replicate the project’s approach. DecarbCityPipes 2050 is the first project that brings together participating cities to learn from each other and coordinate their work in dealing with local challenges. They will build up their skills in the use of data, planning tools and instruments, and process and transition management.

Solutions for decarbonised heat supply

The cities are assessing the existing energy demand for H&C. Next, they will estimate the future demand and potential of renewable energy to supply H&C. With this in mind, project partners developed a report with two main objectives. The first is to help the seven cities look into the various possibilities and combinations of low-carbon H&C supply for urban areas. The second is to identify and describe different heating solutions’ technical and economic strengths and weaknesses. The report begins by exploring the ideal balance between supply cost and heat savings and then examines possible sources of heat supply that range from individual heat sources to district heating. Plans will be developed to determine where the different solutions are the most cost-effective for each district. For example, this depends on the energy infrastructures available, the types and density of buildings and the local energy resources. The cities will cooperate with their local utilities to develop transition roadmaps for the H&C sector. The roadmaps define how to carry out these solutions, at which pace, and who to involve. To achieve this, it will be necessary to adapt and create suitable legal and financial instruments.

Towards a decarbonised H&C sector

Ending in August 2023, DecarbCityPipes 2050 aims to empower more than 220 public officers and improve over 50 policies. Ultimately, the goal is to motivate and support 80 more cities across Europe in following the 7 cities’ lead. The path towards a zero-emission energy system has been laid out. The vision of reliable, sustainable and affordable H&C is within reach. It is now up to cities to make it happen.


DecarbCityPipes 2050, city, energy, H&C, heating, renewable, heat, heating and cooling, fossil fuel