Net-zero buildings in 2050: Key role for efficiency and integration

  • by Build Up
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  • 2022-04-27 10:42:09
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  • International
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As Europe is taking a leading position on tackling climate change, the building sector will play a critical role in delivering carbon neutrality by 2050.

Within the long-term perspective of the European Commission’s European Green Deal, key enablers of a net-zero economy by 2050 include energy efficiency and energy system integration. To contribute to this debate, a major study commissioned by COGEN Europe and recently published by Artelys assesses the role of cogeneration (CHP) across all sectors of the economy, including the building sector.


According to the study, CHP can be a primary enabler for a carbon neutral Europe by 2050. It delivers a more efficient, flexible and cost-effective energy system. At the same time, it empowers consumers in all sectors. Optimising CHP in different net-zero 2050 scenarios leads to savings in energy system costs between 4 and 8 Billion EUR per year by thanks to energy savings and avoiding remaining CO2.


The study showcases the benefits of CHP for different energy consumers in terms of lower energy costs, depending on different market conditions. In buildings, CHP can deliver heating, hot water and even cooling either on site via micro-CHP or through district heating networks. In addition to heat, CHP will produce electricity either for self-consumption or to support power grids.

District heating is a key solution for densely populated areas, delivering affordable and lower pollution heat. Adding CHP to a mix of other heat supply options, including heat pumps, can deliver significant cost reductions. In addition, synergies can be fostered with industrial sites nearby, as CHP can make use of industrial waste heat, municipal residual waste and biomass. Smaller CHPs can be combined with district heating microgrids on hospital sites to ensure both low cost and secure energy supply.

In a net-zero energy system, family homes using hydrogen in fuel cell micro-CHPs can reduce their energy bills, by maximizing their self-consumption in regions and at times of high consumer power prices.

In addition to consumer benefits, optimised CHP operation will ensure more flexibility for the overall energy system. CHP installed in buildings will complement wind and solar power, as well as end-use electrification. This is achieved by producing electricity when intermittent renewables are not sufficient to cover demand. Through its virtuous flexible and efficient operation, CHP can tackle seasonal, weekly and daily peaks in power demand. This makes CHP a key solution for energy systems integration at local level.

All in all, Artelys’ analysis finds CHP to be a future-proof solution for 2050, empowering consumers and delivering system level benefits. There is cost effective potential for cogeneration to cover 26% of heat in individual buildings and 40% of heat supplied through district heating. Based on the Artelys study, 40 GW of CHP should be built in addition to the existing fleet between today and 2050. Most of this capacity will enable higher efficiency, more flexibility and the decarbonisation of heat in the building sector.

Given its important potential to decarbonise buildings, CHP should be prioritised over the inefficient and more polluting power-only and heat-only alternatives. To achieve this, EU policy must enable a stable and ambitious investment framework, fostering the uptake of a diverse mix of energy carriers and clean energy solutions for Europe’s buildings.

This article was posted on Build Up

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Photo by Håkon Grimstad on Unsplash

 energy efficiency
 low carbon

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