Solar energy could account for around one-sixth of the world’s total low-temperature heating and cooling needs by 2050, according to a roadmap launched beginning of July by the International Energy Agency (IEA). “The IEA’s Solar Heating and Cooling Roadmap confirms the great opportunity that lies in using solar thermal to replace fossil fuels and electricity”, says Werner Weiss, Chairman of the IEA Solar Heating and Cooling Program, which provided important expertise to the roadmap.
While solar heating and cooling today makes a modest contribution to world energy demand, the roadmap envisages that if governments and industry took concerted action, solar energy could annually produce more than 16 % of total final energy use for low-temperature heat and nearly 17 % for cooling. This would correspond to a 25-fold increase in absolute terms of SHC technology deployment in the next four decades.
“In addition to replacing fossil fuels that are directly burned to produce heat, solar heating technologies can also replace electricity used for heating water as well as individual rooms and buildings”, says Paolo Frankl, Head of the IEA’s Renewable Energy Division. The report notes that solar thermal cooling technology can reduce the burden on electric grids at times of peak cooling demand by fully or partially replacing conventional electrically powered air conditioners in buildings.
It also stresses the scope for expanding use of these technologies in industry. Often overlooked is several industry sectors’ significant energy demand for low- and medium-temperature heat in such processes as washing, drying agricultural products, pasteurisation and cooking. “Those industrial processes offer enormous potential for solar heating technologies, which could supply up to 20 % of total global industrial demand for low temperature heat by 2050”, explains Frankl.
To realise the goal outlined, the IEA roadmap recommends key actions which governments should take over the next decade. These include creating a stable, long-term policy framework for solar heating and cooling; introducing economic incentives; and addressing barriers such as a lack of quality-control standards. Other recommendations are for governments to provide funding and support-mechanisms for research, development and demonstration so promising technologies that are at an early stage can reach high-volume commercial production within 10 years.
You can download the roadmap at www.iea.org/publications/freepublications