How to decarbonize the energy sector in an affordable way

Energy renovation of existing buildings will not only decrease energy demand but also lead to further efficiencies in energy supply as well as the integration of renewable energy.

Approach to future energy systems

Denmark and many other countries and regions around the world are working on decarbonising the energy sector. There is a growing recognition among the public, as well as in the building and energy sectors, that one must take an integrated approach in order to achieve this goal. Savings, heating, cooling, electricity, transport and gas cannot be seen as separate elements. In the future, these sectors need to be integrated. Here, energy efficiency in buildings plays an important role.

Savings in heating demand make it possible to decrease the temperature of the heat supply, which benefits both district heating systems and individual heat pumps. Moreover, this result of energy savings and district heating will further the affordability of solar thermal, geothermal and waste-heat utilisation. Combined with sector integration, this leads to more affordable thermal storage options that can increase the integration of wind and solar energy.

To realize the future role of existing and new buildings, one needs to understand the changes in the energy system around buildings. In this, when identifying affordable paths to decarbonisation, it is key to take an integrated Smart Energy System approach. This approach relies on the benefits from the synergies between savings, energy efficiency, and interactions between energy sectors, in combination with an integrated use of storages and existing infrastructures.

Supply level as an enabler

The contribution of the building sector is essential to establish smart energy infrastructures and a 100 per cent renewable energy system. Recommendations to increase energy savings activities and support behavioural changes in the operation of buildings go hand in hand with supply level recommendation. It is essential that heat savings in existing buildings are implemented together at the given moment of general renovation and refurbishment in a building. Otherwise, the cost of achieving demand savings is excessive and a renewable energy system by 2050 risks becoming more costly. For the building stock that exists today approximately 40 per cent savings can be recommended for space heating (including hot water).  Although new buildings pose a smaller challenge overall, it is key that recommendations are made which facilitate savings to a level at which the supply of renewable energy becomes cheaper.

Proposal for Energy savings in Denmark in the future

  • District heating should be expanded further to replace individual boilers
  • New supply systems with low temperature district heating from solar thermal
  • Large‐scale heat pumps, geothermal, waste incineration, and biogas should be supported outside district heating areas

Efficient ground‐source heat pumps supplemented with solar thermal

Primary contact
Esben Ahlmann Hjuler

Case location

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