Solar energy could meet one-sixth of global demand for heating and cooling

Solar energy could account for around one-sixth of the world’s total low-temperature heating and cooling needs by 2050, according to a roadmap launched today by the International Energy Agency (IEA).

This would eliminate some 800 megatonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions per year, or more than Germany’s total CO2 emissions in 2009.

The IEA’s Solar Heating and Cooling Roadmap outlines how best to advance the global uptake of solar heating and cooling (SHC) technologies, which produce very low levels of greenhouse-gas emissions. Some SHC technologies, such as domestic hot water heaters, are already widely in use in certain countries, but others are just entering the development phase.

While solar heating and cooling today makes a modest contribution to world energy demand, the roadmap envisages that if governments and industry took concerted action, solar energy could annually produce more than 16% of total final energy use for low-temperature heat and nearly 17% for cooling. This would correspond to a 25-fold increase in absolute terms of SHC technology deployment in the next four decades.

“Given that global energy demand for heat represents almost half of the world’s final energy use – more than the combined global demand for electricity and transport – solar heat can make a significant contribution in both tackling climate change and strengthening energy security,”