Buildings and heat transition
Achieving climate neutrality in the buildings sector requires the rapid deployment of key technologies as well as energy efficiency improvements. The challenge is stark: nearly all European buildings need to undergo energy-efficiency refurbishment, while fossil fuels remain the dominant source of energy for heating and cooling, both in district heating networks and on-site systems. Furthermore, most building materials used in construction are carbon-intensive, representing a growing share of embodied carbon emissions. Moreover, most buildings in Europe lack the technical systems that would enable a flexible charging of electric vehicles or the flexible operation of heat pumps.
Progress towards climate-neutral building sector hence requires not just one transition, but rather four:
- a building envelope transition to radically improve the energy performance of the building stock;
- a heating and cooling transition to phase out the use of fossil fuels in buildings and heat networks;
- a building materials transition to make recycled, zero-carbon and climate-positive materials the new standard in construction; and
- a smart electrification transition to ensure the societally beneficial and cost-efficient electrification of buildings.
Agora works on each of these transitions in Germany and Europe, often at the intersection of the buildings sector with power, industry, and transport. A particular focus of our work is on accelerating the renovation of the existing building stock, speeding up electrification of heating, including through the roll-out of heat pumps and unlocking the potential of green district heating.