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.

Read our Energy Insights on heat.

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

Learn more about district heating or combined heat and power by browsing our online knowledge resources.

What's new?

Energy saving actions outlined for EU

11/05/2022
The actions outlined in Playing my part: How to save money, reduce reliance on Russian energy, support Ukraine and help the planet have been designed ...

Read more »

Light bulb moment for the US

04/05/2022
The rules from the Department of Energy (DOE) will ensure that commonly used light bulbs, including the iconic pear-shaped ones, meet an efficiency st...

Read more »

EC awards over €1bn to green projects

20/04/2022
The seven projects – which will aim to reduce emissions by over 76mn tonnes of CO2e during their first 10 years of operation – are all deploying innov...

Read more »

UK government unveils new hydrogen, nuclear and CCS investment

20/04/2022
The funding announcement followed publication of the government’s British energy security strategy, which sets out how the UK will accelerate the...

Read more »

UK’s first net zero home

13/04/2022
Max Fordham House in Camden was designed for and lived in by Max Fordham, the British designer and engineer who founded the building services engineer...

Read more »

Events and training

Level 3: Advanced Energy Manager

10/10/2022
This 10-day course is an advanced qualification aiming to support experienced energy managers to further advance their careers by gaining the skills a...

Read more »

Technical guidance publications

Guidance on the management of the hazard of vessel impact with offshore structures

2022
This publication provides guidance on the management of the hazard of vessel impact with offshore structures.This guidance is considered relevant to m...

Read more »

Model Code of Safe Practice Part 9: Liquefied petroleum gas - large bulk storage

2021
This technical publication provides good practice guidance on the layout, design, operation and integrity management for bulk LPG storage installation...

Read more »

Guidance for integrity root-cause analysis

2021
This publication helps the integrity community to learn from low criticality incidents.The guidance introduces the topic of root-cause analyses (RCA) ...

Read more »

Managing the replant of a combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT) power plant

2021
This publication provides guidance on establishing good practice for the safe and structured approach to the management of a replant of a CCGT power p...

Read more »

Guidelines for in-service management of passive fire protection coating systems

2021
This document provides guidance on in-service management of passive fire protection coatings that have been applied to components such as fire barrier...

Read more »

Visit our publishing site »

You may also be interested in