Baerbel Epp, Solar Thermal World
Graph: Aalborg University
What would the economic impact on a future energy system be if one were to unlock the full solar thermal potential in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Italy? According to a study conducted by Aalborg University as part of the IEA SHC Task 52 research project Solar Heat and Energy Economics in Urban Environments, exploiting the maximum potential will result in significant cost reductions if solar heat is supplied not individually but by district heating. The graph shows small changes of between -0.1 % and +0.2 % in total socio-economic cost both in the District Heating scenario (expansion of district heating grids) and the Heat Savings one (retrofits reduce heat demand in buildings) when the maximum solar thermal potential is realised by using either decentralised solutions or district heating to supply heat to consumers. The key factor influencing the outcome is the cost of solar thermal systems.
Aalborg University’s assessment of solar thermal’s role in a future energy mix was already reported on in this article. The Task 52 researchers considered all energy costs needed for installing solar thermal systems according to potential, namely infrastructure investment, operation and maintenance, fuel and CO2. What their calculations did not include were taxes, subsidies and external factors, such as added health costs or expenses for implementing climate change mitigation and adaptation measures.