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?

Ramping up heat pump production to decarbonise Europe’s building stock

27/07/2022

In total, some €1bn is to be invested on expanding Viessmann’s heat pumps and green climate solutions portfolio, including electricity storage, solar ...

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World’s first commercial ‘sand battery’

13/07/2022

Low-cost electricity heats up 100 tonnes of low-grade builders sand, held in a steel container measuring 4x7 metres, to around 500°C. This creates hot...

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UK’s biggest ever renewables auction secures record amount of low carbon energy

13/07/2022

Nearly double the capacity achieved in the previous round, the energy was secured across a range of clean technologies, including offshore wind, solar...

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New infrastructure plans for large-scale decarbonisation in north-west Europe

06/07/2022

The project includes a 1,000 km CO2 export trunkline operated by Equinor which will transport CO2 for safe and permanent storage under the seabed on t...

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Current UK government programmes will miss net zero target

06/07/2022

Last year, the CCC applauded the UK government for setting ambitious targets and launching a new Net Zero Strategy. Policies are now in place for most...

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Events and training

British Institute for Energy Economics Policy Conference 2022

22/09/2022

Register at https://www.biee.org/conference/biee-policy-conference-2022/ 

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Level 3: Advanced Energy Manager

10/10/2022 - 27/02/2023

This 10-day course is an advanced qualification aiming to support experienced energy managers to further advance their careers by gaining the skills a...

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Technical guidance publications

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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A site operator's guide to electric vehicle charging equipment at filling stations

2022

This document is aimed at operators of filling stations and those responsible for deciding whether or not to install electric vehicle charging equipme...

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High level framework for process safety management

2022

In 2010 the EI's Process Safety Committee identified a benefit in promoting a common high-level framework for PSM across the energy industry sectors. ...

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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