Experts believe Europe could tap its 2,860 TWh of heat yearly for power with the right tech

In a new report from the engineering firm Danfoss, most of Europe's "waste" heat could be repurposed to power the continent
Christopher McFadden
Lithium bromide absorption heat pump
Lithium bromide absorption heat pump


According to the Guardian, Europe makes enough extra heat to power the region. Still, environmental experts say that preventing this waste is often overlooked as a way to solve the energy crisis.

"The global energy crisis is a wake-up call to stop wasting energy," said Toby Morgan, senior manager for the built environment at Climate Group, a non-profit environmental organization. "Now, more than ever, we need to make better use of the energy we already produce; we can’t afford to let it literally escape out the window. Energy efficiency improvements, like capturing and recycling excess heat, are critical to lowering fossil fuel demand and bills," he added.

This comes after the engineering company Danfoss released a report this week saying that the EU wastes 2,860 TWh of heat yearly, almost as much as the EU's total energy needs for heat and hot water.

Heat is released into the atmosphere from various sources, including supermarkets, transportation networks, data centers, and commercial buildings. The report's authors say this heat can be captured and used with technologies like heat pumps, more efficient air conditioners, and manufacturing machinery.

Two other solutions are better city planning and district energy systems that heat and cool using networks of renewable energy sources.

Professor of energy planning and renewable energy systems at Aalborg University Brian Vad Mathiesen led the research mentioned in the report, which builds on his team's previous Heat Roadmap Europe projects. "The amount of cities, regions, and countries in Europe that waste heat while spending billions on natural gas or electric heating is mind-blowing."

“Take the Netherlands—there is virtually no district heating even though there is almost twice the amount of waste heat compared to the heat demand. Denmark is the same size but has 60% district heating with only one-third of the population. The use of waste heat is certainly not connected to technical differences. While the physical laws are the same, the political will and traditions are very different,” he said.

Heavy industries like making chemicals, steel, and cement produced "huge, unharnessed potential" in the extra heat. That amounts to more than 267 TWh per year in the EU, which is more than the combined heat generation of Germany, Poland, and Sweden in 2021.

To address the energy crisis quickly, Vad Mathiesen proposes a heat planning directive that allows local governments to plan based on local conditions. A more detailed map of the existing waste heat sources would need to be made to do this.

Then, thermal networks and projects to make buildings use less energy could be suggested.

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