The European Union has committed to several ambitious climate targets, including the reduction of carbon emissions by a net of 55% by 2030 compared to 1990. To meet these goals, the European Commission expects to rapidly decarbonise its building sector throughout the decade. One way to ensure the EU meets its targets and drives massive change is to replace older, fossil fuel-based heating systems with technologies such as heat pumps, solar thermal or geothermal.

There is a risk, however, that the lion’s share of the more ambitious renewable heat targets is achieved through increasingly unsustainable bioenergy. Therefore, without action, the EU’s more ambitious climate targets will lead to a renewable heat transition that protects neither the climate nor biodiversity.

We propose revisions to the Renewable Energy Directive (RED) that could help the EU to achieve its climate goals. In particular we propose four design features for a mandatory RES-H target:

  1. Caps on the use of unsustainable bioenergy.
  2. Allowing renewable electricity to count towards the target.
  3. A multiplier for ambient heat (including heat pumps — ground, air, water — geothermal, and solar thermal).
  4. Reporting requirements to ensure the Efficiency First principle is applied.