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Simon Pezzutto: “There are many alternative and sustainable space cooling solutions, but they represent less than 1% of the solutions available on the market”

Simon Pezzutto
Pan European

Simon Pezzutto: “There are many alternative and sustainable space cooling solutions, but they represent less than 1% of the solutions available on the market”

BUILDING CONVERSATIONS UP WITH... Simon Pezzutto, Senior Researcher at the Institute for Renewable Energy - Eurac Research
María Pérez

Simon Pezzutto completed his PhD in Engineering at the University of Natural Resources & Applied Life Sciences, Vienna (BOKU Vienna). He also spent time during his PhD at the European School of Economics in Madrid, where he obtained a Degree in International Marketing. Previously, he completed a Master’s degree in Natural Resources Management and Ecological Engineering and a Bachelor’s degree in Environment and Bio-Resources Management at BOKU Vienna. He has extensive experience in project management acquired by leading various WPs and tasks of European projects (e.g., HEU MODERATE, H2020 project HotMaps, EnerMaps, BuiltHub, Tender ENER/C1/2018-493 – Renewable Cooling under the Revised Renewable Energy Directive, and Tender ENER/2020/OP/0019 – Pathways for Energy Efficient Heating and Cooling, etc.). He has worked at Eurac Research since 2010 where he contributes to the implementation of technical and economic analyses as WP/Task leader within various international projects, mainly HEU, H2020, FP7 and IEA projects. Moreover, he is coordinating the EU LIFE-CET CoolLIFE project. Since 2022 he also leads a Team on Energy Economics. 

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BUILD UP:  Heatwaves that are more frequent and increasing average temperatures dramatically boost demand for space cooling and air conditioning, which may hinder other energy efficiency measures. What can be done to avoid this, while giving the right to thermal comfort to all?  

SIMON PEZZUTO: The demand for and installation of space cooling technology initially started in public buildings, such as hospitals and offices, but it is now increasing also in the residential sector. In fact, the demand for space cooling and the implementation of space cooling solutions are rapidly expanding due to more frequent heatwaves. The implementation in dwellings has specifically targeted bedrooms, in which the space cooling technologies is usually comprised of split or multi-split systems or portable units. This higher demand and usage of space cooling leads to a big problem because the peak of these systems can cause power switching off during heatwaves. How could this be solved? There are many alternative space cooling systems which consume little energy. Among the most used, we can distinguish between passive cooling systems (e.g., shading systems), and active cooling systems (e.g., thermally driven heat pumps activated by solar thermal energy or geothermal energy). 

BUP: Could you present a few examples of sustainable space cooling solutions (including passive solutions) in buildings? 

SP: There are many alternative and sustainable space cooling solutions, but they represent less than 1% of the solutions available on the market. They include: 

  • Absorption and adsorption space cooling devices, also called thermally driven heat pumps (TDHPs), are powered by natural gas or other heat sources, such as process steam, solar thermal and waste heat steam. These devices are the most diffused in the market, even though representing only less than 1%. 

  • Desiccant space cooling systems which comprise of evaporative liquid desiccant system, ground-coupled solid desiccant system, stand-alone liquid desiccant system, and stand-alone solid desiccant systems. 

  • Sky radiative cooling is a pure passive solution that could remove heat at a rate of around 100 W/m2, however there are still doubts about the ability of materials to work in different locations and climates. Tests show that this works best in dry and sunny climates. 

  • Other passive solutions include blinds, building insulation combined with proper ventilation, green roofs and walls, wind catchers, etc. 

BUP: What is the status of implementation of sustainable district cooling in the European market?  

SP: District cooling (DC) is responsible for a minor part of the energy demand in Europe for cooling, and overall, the share of useful energy demand for DC corresponds to 1% to 2% of the EU27 plus UK useful energy demand. The implementation of DC varies from country to country and some EU Member States appear to not have a DC for cooling at all. For example, Northern Europe shows a high capacity installed compared to other EU countries. Around 80% of DC capacity in Europe comes from Sweden, Denmark, and Finland. Nonetheless, the implementation of DC cooling has been increasing steadily over the last few years and has shown potential particularly in service sector buildings, such as offices and retail, as well as in the residential sector referring to flats in Central and Southern Europe. In general, according to the European energy targets presented in the Renewable Energy Directive (REDII), the application of renewable energy sources should increase in all EU Member States, particularly biomass, solar-thermal, geothermal, solar-photovoltaic, and waste heat in the DC sector. 

“According to the European energy targets, the application of renewable energy sources and waste heat in the district cooling sector should increase in all EU Member States.” 

BUP: In your opinion, are there enough investments available to implement renewable/sustainable cooling solutions for buildings in the EU? 

SP: No, unfortunately the available subsidies and incentives are not enough to foster the market of alternative space cooling systems. Governments should enhance incentives for these kind of technologies in order to better reward citizens and businesses implementing them, whereas subsidies are lump sums and may not much influence the decisions of citizens and businesses. The ideal solution would be to increase the number of incentives, but also to improve the way in which they are implemented. 

BUP: How is renewable cooling addressed by European policies and directives?  

SP: The revised Renewable Energy Directive (REDII), under the Delegated Act, aims at mainstreaming renewable energy into space heating and cooling and district heating and cooling. In particular, a new methodology has been developed to quantify renewable cooling and district cooling. This methodology introduces a progressive system in which the renewable share of cooling depends on the energy performance. It will reward the best available technology and incentivise future deployment of innovative cooling technologies, such as solar cooling. In addition to filling a regulatory gap, the Delegated Act also ensures that the cooling sector joins other sectors in reaching the 2030 goals set by the Fit-for-55 legislative package and is integrated into the climate neutrality targets for 2050 set by the EU Green Deal

“The available subsidies and incentives are not enough to foster the market of alternative space cooling systems.” 

BUP: How do you envisage the spread of renewable cooling installations for buildings in the EU in the future? 

SP: At the moment the spread is still quite limited (less than 1%) due to little availability of incentives and subsidies. However, the sector could be further developed if those incentives and subsidies are improved and increased at local, national, and EU levels. 

Energy efficiency technologies and solutions
Renewable Energy Sources (RES)
Heating, Ventilation and Cooling