The European Union aims at a fundamental transformation of its energy system to achieve a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions between 80 to 95% by 2050.
Today, about half the final energy demand is used for heating and cooling purposes. In future, the heat demand will be significantly reduced through behavioural changes and efficiency measures, e.g. by nearly-zero-energy-buildings. However, as heat is not only used for space heating in new builds and in
the existing housing stock, but also for domestic hot water and process heating, in 2050 there will still be approximately 50% of today’s heat demand.
The European Technology Platform on Renewable Heating and Cooling (RHC-Platform) is developing concepts showing how renewable energies can meet the entire heating and cooling demand in 2050. Its vision document, published in 2011, describes the RHC-Platform objectives. Within the heating and cooling sector, solar thermal energy will play a vital role. Up to now, it has only covered a minor share of the heating demand in Europe, although it has the greatest potential of all renewable energies for heating and cooling. One of the main reasons is that the technological potential of solar thermal has not yet been developed. In the past, public budgets for solar thermal R&D programmes
have been relatively small and often solely focussed on demonstration.
In this document, the European Solar Thermal Technology Panel (ESTTP) of the RHC-Platform provides a comprehensive outline of the solar thermal technologies strategic research priorities and confirms their great innovation potential. If the related research is carried out, solar thermal will be able to realize its potential and become a major energy source for heating and cooling. We thank all the contributors to this document warmly for their valuable input and hope, that it will convince politicians, industry and the research sector of the need to increase significantly R&D activities to exploit the huge opportunities offered by solar thermal technologies.