Brussels, Belgium [RenewableEnergyAccess.com] The building sector in Europe accounts for approximately 40 percent of Europe’s energy needs. The solar thermal industry believes it can provide up to 50 percent of this energy demand.The way to get there came into sharper focus this week with the official launch of the European Solar Thermal Technology Platform (ESTTP) in Brussels. The ESTTP is charged with developing a comprehensive strategy for research and market deployment of solar thermal technologies in Europe. The official launch of the Platform followed almost one year of preparation and discussion on the Solar Thermal Vision 2030, which was developed by industry and research institutes from all around Europe. This document outlines the sector’s vision for the future use of solar thermal energy. For the building sector, which is responsible for 40% of Europe’s energy supply, it presents the concept of the Active Solar Building, which will be entirely heated and cooled by solar thermal energy and which is expected to be the building standard in 2030. The overall vision of the solar thermal branch is to supply up to 50% of the low-temperature energy demand of Europe by solar thermal by 2030. The Solar Thermal Vision will serve as a guiding point to identify a comprehensive strategy for research and market deployment of solar thermal technologies. Among the key research topics will be advanced heat stores, medium-temperature collectors, solar cooling systems and system technology. Some research areas can provide decisive results in the short and medium term, while other areas require a long-term approach. “So far most people have drastically underestimated the potential of solar thermal technologies,” said Gerhard Stryi-Hipp, Chairman of the preliminary ESTTP Steering Committee of the European Solar Thermal Industry Federation (ESTIF). “Although applications like solar domestic hot water and space heating are already common in some European regions, the potential for further technological and market development all over Europe is enormous. Therefore there is a huge need for increased R&D efforts, especially in new applications such as solar cooling and solar industrial process heat.” In his speech, EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs expressed his conviction that the European solar thermal industry and research institutes had the capacity to maintain the technological leadership and to increase the world market share of European products. “I am convinced that by joining our efforts, the Commission and the ESTIF members will succeed in bringing the solar thermal energy to the place it deserves in the market. I also believe that this will contribute to the move towards sustainable energy schemes, to improve EU industry competitiveness and job creation,” said Piebalgs. Mechtild Rothe, Member of the European Parliament, strongly welcomed the launch of the ESTTP. Speaking about the current political debate around the forthcoming 7th European Framework Program for Research and Technological Development (FP7), Ms. Rothe reminded the audience of the need for increased R&D funds for renewable energy research: together with several colleagues, she has tabled a proposal to the European Parliament to earmark 2/3 of the FP7 budget foreseen for energy research to the work on renewable energy technologies and energy efficiency. It is expected that the results of the ESTTP will help the European Commission and other R&D funding institutions to focus on high impact topics. By involving all stakeholders, the Platform will identify which R&D topics are most likely to boost the uptake of solar thermal energy. The first meeting of the preliminary ESTTP Steering Committee is foreseen for 17th July and the foundation of the ESTTP working groups is expected in the autumn.