REPLACE – Making heating and cooling for European consumers efficient, economically resilient, clean and climate-friendly

Solarthermie Montage Copyright Austria Solar - Sonnenkraft
© Austria Solar/Sonnenkraft
The heating and cooling sector comprises 50% of final European energy consumption and over 68% of all gas imports. To reduce energy consumption and increase the share of renewables in this sector is therefore crucial for a successful Energy Union.

In particular, the fact that 80 million out of 120 million installed space heating systems in Europe currently achieve an energy label class C or D gives rise to motivate consumers to replace those units as soon as possible with more efficient, greener alternatives.
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The EU Horizon 2020 project REPLACE aims to support the European 2030 and 2050 energy, climate, environmental, economic and societal targets by boosting the phase-out of inefficient and old heating and cooling (HC) systems for renewable systems in the HC sector. Specifically, the project targets consumers, investors/owners as well as intermediaries (installers, chimney sweepers and consultants) and helps them to make well-informed decisions.

All activities proposed by REPLACE aim to inform and motivate end consumers to replace their old and inefficient HC appliances with better, environmentally-friendly alternatives with the additional benefits of monetary savings and improvements in air-quality, user-comfort, operational reliability, and security of energy supply (due to the utilization of locally available, more price-stable energy from renewable sources). The replacement of HC appliances can also increase the value of the property, since it is supplied with an inexhaustible, sustainable energy source.
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The sub-goals of REPLACE are to
    • understand the heat markets as well as the mind-sets and needs of end consumers, intermediaries (like installers, chimney sweepers, energy advisers) and investors,
    • identify and reduce market barriers and to foster an enabling environment as well as better and trustworthy services,
    • improve framework conditions, planning and investment security,
    • better inform all stakeholders of the benefits of a heating or cooling system replacement, according to their information needs and preferred formats,
    • enable consumers to take informed decisions, encouraging sustainable energy behaviour,
    • strengthen the trust of end consumers in intermediaries and in the reliability of renewable HC systems and related (service) suppliers,
    • transfer know-how from more advanced to less advanced countries in this field, e.g. by training of installers in South-Eastern European countries,
    • create and implement locally adapted, tailor-made replacements campaigns addressing and overcoming replacement barriers in nine European pilot regions, while also testing, steering and improving them on-site, , and
    • to make the project’s findings available for replication in other countries and regions.
REPLACE also addresses fuel poverty and gender issues and reduces the risk of a heating crisis by supporting the use of regional renewable energy sources (such as solar, ambient heat or biomass) and HC equipment produced within the EU (biomass boilers, heat pumps, solar collectors etc.).
© Felipe Furtado/Unsplash
REPLACE aims to improve coordination in local networks to implement replacement campaigns in nine target regions with over 8 million inhabitants: from Southern over Central to Eastern Europe. In order to develop efficient campaigns, REPLACE
    • identifies requirements for implementation actions concerning infrastructure, regulations and law,
    • investigates stakeholders’ mind-sets and their needs,
    • refers to lessons learnt from previous projects,
    • and develops action plans tailor-made for each pilot region.
© Nik MacMillan/Unsplash
A crucial factor to adapt replacement campaigns to the various regional needs are local working groups. They connect all key actors in each region – local governments, consumer associations, developers, energy utilities and professional associations – to prepare the ground for regional campaigns and steer the direction of a wide range of replacement activities.

As an essential approach, REPLACE explicitly unites intermediaries, such as chimney sweepers or installers, who have constant access to consumers, and policy makers to develop common activities with maximum impact. REPLACE supports the local working groups by a communication framework and specific online and offline actions targeted to the needs of all relevant stakeholders.
© Marianne Bos/Unsplash
The starting point for the action is challenging: generally speaking, heating systems and related decisions are considered to be “unexciting” or “unsexy” for end consumers, which is why hardly anyone deals with them voluntarily. Therefore, outdated heating systems are only replaced when they fail completely or are about to fail – this often means that there is no time for informed decisions or a change of energy source. The amount of information required for a changeover is high and many different actors have to be consulted. In many cases,  consumers often do not have enough money to invest in potentially more expensive low-CO2 heating or cooling systems, even if life cycle costs are significantly lower and much less risky.

REPLACE wants to tackle those and other local challenges and barriers by developing and testing locally adapted, tailor-made replacement campaigns – for the first time, in parallel – across nine European pilot regions with a total population of 8 million. The replacement campaigns are to be launched and supported by the project partners on-site by local working groups, bringing public authorities, end consumers, installers, chimney sweepers, energy consultants, energy supply companies, policy makers and other key players to one table.
© Klara Vernarcova/Unsplash
The local working group, as far as it is in its power, will create an enabling environment, offer attractive “packaged replacement solutions” and enable end consumers to take informed decisions. Based on preliminary investigations, elements of these packaged solutions, in the best case, include the following:
    • a “boiler age label” by chimney sweepers, serving – besides improving consumer awareness – the purpose of data acquisition for LWG planning and the hand-over of a replacement information map
    • independent energy advisors who act as “one-stop shops” for intensive consulting regarding the most suitable new renewable heating systems, take care that the corresponding “all-round carefree package” offers of “listed installers” are complete and comparable and monitor the customer satisfaction regarding taken technical and procederal measures: all for free and on-site (except for comparing of offers via desktop)
    • a "all-round carefree package" offered by “listed installers”: they are asked to put together a “package deal” including all costs and services needed for the
      • disposal of outworn equipment and fuel,
      • installation and commissioning of the new system, incl. electric installations etc.,
      • (eventual) temporary, mobile “bridge-over” heating solutions, as well as
      • application for permissions and subsidies, if any.
    • financing package”, i.e. public authorities
      • offer financial incentives or bridge-over existing stop-and-go funding, respectively,
      • negotiate with banks for predictable and attractive loan instalment rates (preferably lying in the range or below of the annual money savings after a fuel-switch),
      • negotiate with suppliers of green HC systems for discounts for equipment or fuel, and
      • grant mortgage loans in case of energy poverty or to older people with difficulties to apply for a loan,
    • a “collective action” that addresses energy efficiency measures before or in parallel to a heating system replacement, collectively organized (by a public “care taker” organization), like
      • collective thermal insulation of the top floor ceiling, e.g. at single family houses,
      • collective implementation of cheap and simple “heating system check” measures, or
      • joint purchase of PV systems, e.g. with hot water heating elements or split room air conditioning systems (e.g. recommended by An offer that is currently going to be extended by REPLACE’s “sister” Horizon 2020 project HACKS).
Deviations from this preliminary concept (drafted at an early planning stage of the project) are quite possible depending on local conditions and possibilities.
© Energiewende Oberland: Mobile heating container
For accompanying the overall implementation concept, consisting of the packaged solutions listed above, the local working group in its replacement campaign will implement at least six further supporting activities from those listed here below:
    1. REPLACE information points at municipalities and other public bodies
    2. Open cellar events“ at houses of pioneer families
    3. A study tour to best practice systems
    4. Labelling of houses e.g. with regard to climate friendliness
    5. Three webinars on the use of the „Replace your Heating System Calculator“
    6. Six boiler replacement feasibility studies per target region, offered for free
    7. Information stands at fair trades, installer events etc.
    8. Information stands on the subject of cooling and air conditioning
    9. Show case of a mobile heating container, e.g. as a part of „carefree packages“
    10. Show case of an energy supplier/energy service company/installer becoming a contractor
    11. Show case of an installer (door opener, equipment supplier) & contractor (planning, financing) cooperation
    12. Show case of a multifunctional facade system
Essential for campaign implementation are a target group-specific communication strategy with diverse online and offline (know-how & show-how) marketing activities. With this bundle of activities, REPLACE will create the necessary momentum to bring joint implementation solutions to the local population and to enable stakeholders in other regions and countries to replicate similar approaches, making heating in Europe efficient and climate-friendly.
Christopher Burns - Unsplash
© Christopher Burns - Unsplash
REPLACE implements regional campaigns and makes them replicable as well as sustainable by
    • making all material openly accessible,
    • offering instruments for campaigns, e.g. guidelines for end-users, intermediaries and investors,
    • highlighting success stories,
    • providing learning material and regional training seminars,
    • and implementing policy and business-related improvements.
One central tool will be the “REPLACE Your Heating System Calculator”. It raises consumers’ and investors’ awareness of monetary and wider benefits of heating and cooling replacements and develops momentum towards collective actions.
Who would know better about the benefits of climate-friendly systems for heating and cooling than people who use these systems themselves? REPLACE therefore provides a catalogue of best practices and innovative approaches in close cooperation with end users, intermediaries, investors and municipalities in each target region from Western over Central to South-Eastern Europe. They show how replacements can be implemented under real local conditions, being technically and economically feasible at the same time. Best practice examples cover:
  • residential building refurbishment,
  • heating and cooling replacement,
  • demand-response and collective actions,
  • innovative approaches like utilising mobile heating units or innovative building renovations.
Local examples are available in the relevant languages:
Replacing old heating and cooling systems with sustainable alternatives is a complex topic. This is why REPLACE helps to take informed decisions: Its Replacement Handbooks specifically address end consumers, intermediaries and investors and are available in 9 languages:
  • End consumers find technical and economical information on modern heating and cooling equipment – condensed and easy to understand. Simple measures are included helping to save energy. And links guiding to regional intermediaries can pave the way to take next steps.
  • For professional intermediaries as well as investors, REPLACE provides a technical overview of innovative and applied renewable heating and cooling solutions including e.g. planning guidance, innovative business models and financing options.
The geographical focus of REPLACE lies in Western, Central and South-Eastern Europe: It covers 8 countries with 9 representative target regions and altogether 8.3 million inhabitants:
      • Austria: Federal State of Salzburg
      • Bosnia and Herzegovina: Canton of Sarajevo
      • Bulgaria: Rhodope Mountain Region
      • Croatia: Primorsko goranska County, City of Zagreb incl. three bordering counties
      • Germany: Bavarian Oberland
      • North Macedonia: Skopje Region
      • Slovenia: Slovenia
      • Spain: Castilla y León Region
By concentrating on these regions, REPLACE investigates a broad portfolio of heating and cooling technologies and appropriate renewable systems. The project thereof develops individual approaches, examines possible similarities and generates solutions that can be shared within and beyond its target regions.
    • Österreichische Energieagentur Austrian Energy Agency (Austria)
    • Wirtschaft und Infrastruktur GmbH & Co Planungs KG (Germany)
    • Energiewende Oberland Bürgerstiftung für Erneuerbare Energien und Energieeinsparung (Germany)
    • Escan s.l. (Spain)
    • Regionalna energetska agencija Sjeverozapadne Hrvatske (Croatia)
    • Energetski institut Hrvoje Požar (Croatia)
    • Enova d.o.o. Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovnia)
    • Black Sea Energy Research (Bulgaria)
    • Institut Jožef Stefan (Slovenia)
    • Međunarodni centar za održivi razvoj energetike, voda i okoliša (North Macedonia)
    • Ente Público Regional de la Energía de Castilla y León (Spain)
Please find contact details of all partners here
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