The Efficacy of European Solar Thermal Obligations

Last week, reported that the European Parliament had approved by overwhelming majority the “Thomsen Report” on the Roadmap for Renewable Energies in Europe. Crucial to this report was the call for the adoption in all Member States of renewable heat obligations, at least in new buildings and those undergoing major renovation. These obligations are regulations requiring a minimum share of the heating demand be covered by solar energy, and as stated, they usually apply to new buildings, those undergoing major renovation and sometimes when an older heating system is being replaced.

A decade ago, the idea of making the use of solar or renewable energy compulsory sounded radical and politically unfeasible in most parts of the world. Currently, solar obligations have been adopted or are being discussed in a number of countries, regions and municipalities in Europe and beyond.

In June, 2007, while discussing the contents of the future EU Directive on Renewable Energies, the ITRE Committee of the European Parliament called on the Commission to “speed up the widespread adoption in all Member States of best practice regulations making it compulsory, at least where existing buildings are substantially renovated and new buildings are built, for a minimum proportion of the heating requirement to be met from renewable sources, as it already is in a growing number of regions and municipalities”.

Solar obligations are considered one of the most powerful instrument for promoting the use of renewables in new buildings. Empirical experience shows their manifold benefits. However, solar obligations fundamentally change the way how the solar thermal market grows. Obliged customers will often search for the cheapest possible solution. Therefore, it is necessary that solar obligation include appropriate quality assurance measures.

The following report from the European Solar Thermal Industry Federation outlines how best to develop the European solar thermal market through solar obligations.

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