How is climate change affecting total and peak energy demand for space heating and cooling across Europe?

Policy Question
  Indicator codes: CLIM 047

Key messages

(21 May 2019)

  • The annual population-weighted heating degree days (HDD) decreased by 6 % between the periods 1950–1980 and 1981–2017; the decrease during the period 1981–2017 was on average 6.5 HDDs per year. The largest decrease occurred in northern Europe and possibly in Italy.
  • The annual population-weighted cooling degree days (CDD) increased by 33 % between the periods 1950–1980 and 1981–2017; the increase during the period 1981–2017 was on average 0.9 HDDs per year. The largest increase occurred in southern Europe.
  • The observed trend in HDDs and CDDs is projected to continue throughout the 21st century. The largest absolute decreases in HDDs are expected in northern and south-eastern Europe; the largest absolute increases in CDDs are expected in southern Europe.
  • The decrease in HDDs in Europe is projected to be much larger than the increase in CDDs in absolute terms. However, a given change in CDDs generally has larger economic impacts than the same change in HDDs, because cooling is almost exclusively produced from electricity, whereas heating is often derived from energy carriers with lower specific costs and primary energy requirements.
  • The projected increase in cooling demand in southern Europe may further exacerbate peaks in electricity demand in summer. This can threaten the stability of electricity networks during summer heatwaves, unless appropriate adaptation measures are taken.

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