Solar Thermal Action Plan for Europe

In the European Solar Thermal Industry Federation’s (ESTIF) recent publication, a Solar Thermal Action Plan for Europe, ESTIF proposes that by 2020, the EU should aim at reaching 1 square meter of collector area for every European - or 320 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of installed capacity.

The plan calls for a mix of support policies: regulations requiring the use of solar thermal are recommended for new buildings and major refurbishments; financial incentives to speed up the introduction of solar thermal in existing buildings; training of professionals and R&D funding are needed for the long-term success of the solar thermal markets.

Ten years ago, the European Commission published its White Paper on Renewables, proposing a Community Strategy and Action Plan. Since then, European Directives to promote renewables in the electricity sector and in the transport sector have been successful in kicking off substantial growth in these two sectors.

However, the renewable heating and cooling (RES-H) sector has been neglected at EU level and in most Member States, says ESTIF.

ESTIF notes that the recently issued Renewable Energy Roadmap does not follow the European Parliament’s resolution of February 2006, which called for an EU Directive to promote RES-H, including targets at EU and national level.

This Solar Thermal Action Plan is designed to help policy makers to identify successful support strategies.

It notes that the most successful countries have supported solar thermal over longer periods - thus avoiding a destructive stop-and-go of the market - and have implemented a coherent mix of measures, which address not one but several barriers to growth.

Most of these barriers are directly related to the small size of the market.

As soon as a critical mass is reached, these barriers vanish:

  • People know about solar thermal and find it natural to use it

  • Standard training of craftsmen includes solar thermal

  • Architects foresee solar thermal as a standard feature in buildings

  • Every installer offers solar thermal systems

  • Industry invests heavily into market development, R&D

  • Mass production and marketing drive down costs

Ten years after the White Paper, the solar thermal sector is in a better position than ever before, says ESTIF. Today, an established industry produces solutions for sustainable heating and cooling. Solar domestic hot water systems are mature technologies. Combi Systems, which additionally cover parts of the space heating demand, are now widely used in several countries. Promising applications such as solar cooling and process heat, expected to play an important role in tomorrow’s energy supply, are slowly finding their way into the markets, says the Action Plan.

ESTIF asserts that the need for a heating and cooling supply based on renewables has become more and more apparent. In a few decades, oil and gas will be too precious to be wasted for low temperature applications, which could be easily supplied by solar thermal. The clear and unmistakable signs of global warming highlight the urgency to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

ESTIF calls for “a new and ambitious goal for solar thermal in Europe”: reaching the same solar thermal penetration on average as Austria has today. With more ambitious policies, ESTIF says a bigger goal can be reached: 1m2 of collector area for every European - 320 GWth of installed capacity in 2020.

The document is aimed at helping policy makers at European, national and local levels to design successful policies leading each European country to a full exploitation of its potential for clean, safe, cheap and endless solar energy for heating and cooling purposes.

Read the Solar Thermal Action Plan for Europe.

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