Heat

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Heat is the largest energy end-use with over 50% of global final energy consumption

Heat is a form of energy that determines the temperature, volume, and state (gas, liquid or solid) of a material. It can be transferred from one object to another, to raise or lower temperatures, and is most commonly transferred from warmer to cooler matter. It can be produced by converting other forms of energy, such as chemical energy stored in fuels or electrical energy, in boilers, furnaces, pumps or electric heaters. Heat energy allows us to warm and cool our buildings, provides us with hot water and the ability to cook our food. Heat is also required for industrial production of steel, chemicals, food and drink.

Heat accounts for a large proportion of greenhouse gas emissions; the decarbonisation of heat is thus vital to reach emission reduction targets. With various means of production and range of uses embedded in all aspects of our lives, heat constitutes a complicated system that is difficult to lead down a single desired path. As such, fewer countries currently have policies for renewable heat than have policies for renewable electricity and transport.

Unlike electricity which can be decarbonised solely by feeding renewable energy into the grid, decarbonising heat also depends on changes at the point of use and may require millions of homes to replace their gas or oil-fired boilers with a new technology. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, since the fuel mix and the means of delivery to the end-user vary greatly from one country to another. Thus, a multiple-technology approach towards low carbon heat is most likely required, resulting in a mix of pathways. These could include electrification using heat pumps, using sustainably-produced hydrogen as a fuel, and setting up district heating networks which can incorporate a range of low-carbon heat sources as well as waste heat from various industrial and urban processes. Heat energy efficiency is also key for emissions reductions and advancements can be made in thermal performance of buildings (e.g. insulation) and the efficiency of heating systems. Wider deployment of combined heat and power (CHP), as it produces electricity and useful heat at the same time, can also help to improve the efficiency of the wider energy system. However, public acceptance, high upfront capital costs, and additional infrastructure and storage requirements pose significant challenges to implementing such transformations of the heat system.

Learn about the decarbonisation of heat by reading our Energy Insights.

Find out energy professionals’ expectations for the future sources of heat in the UK.

Learn more about the future of heat and its role in society by browsing our online New Energy World magazine records.

What's new?

Biofuels: first industrial-scale solar thermal plant inaugurated, while used cooking oil claims queried

26/06/2024

Called Dawn, Synhelion’s facility features a mirror field and 20-metre-high solar tower with solar receiver, thermochemical reactor and thermal energy...

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Global grid infrastructure needs to more than double by 2050 to meet surging electricity demand

26/06/2024

  DNV new power systems reportEconomic growth and the electrification of transportation, heating and industry are expected to result in a do...

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Electrified charcoal ‘sponge’ can soak up CO2 directly from the air

19/06/2024

The method uses a process similar to charging a battery to charge activated charcoal, which is often used in household water filters. By charging the ...

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European Council approves Net Zero Industry Act

05/06/2024

The NZIA aims to foster innovation by creating favourable conditions for investment in green technologies by simplifying the permit-granting process f...

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Trial carbon capture unit begins operating at Belgian steelworks

29/05/2024

The pilot carbon capture unit will operate for one to two years to test the feasibility of progress to full-scale deployment of the technology, which ...

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Events and training

Level 3: Advanced Energy Manager

30/09/2024 - 04/12/2024

This 9-day course is an advanced qualification aiming to support experienced energy managers to further advance their careers by gaining the skills an...

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WPC Energy UK National Committee Expert Workshop 2024

31/10/2024

Explore key challenges and potential solutions on the road to net zero.

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Technical guidance publications

Research report: Global activities in hydrogen development

2024

This report covers various developmental activities across the hydrogen value chain, encompassing production, transportation/distribution, storage, an...

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Tripod lite: A ‘lite’ tool for investigating simple incidents, events and near misses

2023

This publication is free to download.  Register or log in, then click 'download'.Note: this will download a document 'landing page' that inc...

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Research report: Application of life cycle assessment methodology to the understanding of the energy balance and efficiency of hydrogen value chain building blocks

2022

This document is free to download for registered users.This publication explores the efficiencies of the hydrogen energy system and quantifies the ene...

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Guidelines for the assessment of ageing and life extension of non-metallic components in the offshore oil and gas industry, volume 2: composite equipment and repairs

2022

This document captures industry good practice, knowledge and learning on these elements of composite materials. This guidance will provide a star...

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Waste to products – Technology and economic assessment (phase 1)

2022

This document is free to download for registered users.The EMG and Soil Wastes and Groundwater group (SWG) of the EI and Concawe have commissioned E4t...

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Online tools and software collection

A selection of interactive maps and calculators that let you explore trends across a range of different energy topics, including heat.

Energy Insight: Integrating power, transport, and heat

This Energy Insight explains how using electricity and hydrogen as energy carriers in heat and transport could bring economic and decarbonisation benefits to the whole energy system