IEA Report Highlights the Critical Role of Buildings for the Clean Energy Transition

IEA Report Highlights the Critical Role of Buildings for the Clean Energy Transition
– and Points out the Role of Heat Pumps for Energy Savings

A recently released report from the IEA explores the critical role buildings can play in meeting climate change ambitions, using a portfolio of clean energy solutions that exist today. Heat pumps provides one of these existing solutions.

The report considers the investment needs and strategies to enable the buildings sector transition, and the multiple benefits that transformation would deliver, including improving the quality and affordability of energy services in buildings for billions of people. Importantly, it sets out what policy makers can do to overcome the economic and non-economic barriers to accelerate investment in low-carbon, energy-efficient solutions in the buildings sector. This ranges from traditional, yet highly effective policy tools to ambitious, innovative market-based approaches that can increase the speed and scale of investment for a sustainable buildings sector.

The report points out that the pace and scale of the global clean energy transition is not in line with climate targets. CO2 emissions need to peak around 2020 and enter a steep decline thereafter. In IEA’s Faster Transition Scenario, energy-related emissions drop 75% by 2050. The buildings sector sees the fastest CO2 reduction, falling by an average of 6% per year to 12% of current levels by 2050. Heat pumps cut typical energy use for heating by a factor of four or more. It is clear that a surge in clean energy investment will ultimately bring savings across the global economy and cut in half the proportion of household income spent on energy.

However, government effort is critical to make sustainable buildings a reality. Immediate action is needed to expand and strengthen mandatory energy policies everywhere, and governments can work together to transfer knowledge and share best practices. However, delaying assertive policy action has major economic implications. Waiting another ten years to act on high-performance buildings construction and renovations would result in more than 2 gigatonnes of additional CO2 emissions from 3 500 million tonnes of oil equivalent of unnecessary energy demand to 2050, increasing global spending on heating and cooling by USD 2.5 trillion.

This is the third report in a series, initiated in 2017. The two previous reports have explored how a very ambitious and rapid energy transition to address climate change might look, and highlighted the fundamentally important role of energy efficiency to achieve that energy transition.

IEA (2019), “Perspectives for the Clean Energy Transition”, IEA, Paris.