Top Commission official- district heating focus unlikely to increase coal use

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A leading official at the European Commission’s Directorate for Energy says that it is unlikely that the bloc’s promotion of district energy will involve coal as the main primary energy fuel.

Dr. Jörg Köhli, Team Co-ordinator: offshore safety, coal and oil at the European Commission, Directorate General Energy told COSPP online that environmentalists’ fears that district heating would somehow facilitate the encouragement of new coal plants were unfounded.
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“The promotion of efficient district heating and high-efficiency cogeneration based on useful heat demand is not expected to significantly increase the use
of coal as the main primary energy fuel. This is because EU policies more strongly support the improvement of energy performance of buildings, which are the main recipient of heat and domestic hot water from district heating and CHP systems,” Dr Köhli said.

“The improvement of energy performance of buildings and the improvement of district heating networks as well as the efficiency of the heating sources are already substantially decreasing the demand for primary energy, which also results in the reduction of CO2 emission.”

The question was put to the commission after comments by WWF’s energy policy officer, Darek Urbaniak on the Euractiv website. Referring to the prospect of coal being a beneficiary, Urbaniak had said, “There is a big risk of that. That risk is strengthened by the fact that the 2030 package’s proposed Emissions Trading System reform does not guarantee a price for CO2 that will prevent us from locking the worst polluting infrastructure into our energy future.”

Urbaniak said that new coal builds using district heating as a cover would be most likely in Poland, Germany and some central and East European countries, where blueprints have already been drawn up.

The European Commission is to review energy efficiency measures in the coming months with a view to prioritising heating measures as a way of transforming Europe’s energy performance.

Heat makes up nearly half of the world’s final energy consumption, but the heat industry says that it is routinely and unfairly overlooked in energy and climate debates.

Samuel Furfari, an adviser to the European Commission’s director general for energy indicated change is on the way, telling Euractiv, “We need to focus much more on heating, where there is a lot of low-hanging fruit - much more than in electricity.”

However while coal, according to the Commission spokesperson, will not be facilitated ahead of other power sources, it does not rule out coal engaging with district heating as a means of reducing its emissions.

Dr Köhli pointed out that the legislation in Directive 2012/27/EU on Energy Efficiency clearly supports energy-efficient district heating regardless of the fuels used in these systems. The definition set in Article 2(41) of Directive 2012/27/EU explains that "efficient district heating and cooling" means a district heating or cooling system using at least 50 per cent renewable energy, 50 per cent waste heat, 75 per cent cogenerated heat or 50 per cent of a combination of such energy and heat.

“For reducing the emissions from coal use in the electricity and heat production of the future, coal-fired power plants should more and more use highly efficient technologies and lower emissions further. In this context, also the use of Carbon Capture and Storage technology becomes a priority tool for reducing the overall amount of CO2 emissions in the European Union.

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