Global Roadmap: IEA Calls on Stakeholders to Realise Vision

The International Energy Agency’s (IEA) Technology Roadmap Solar Heating and Cooling sees a huge untapped potential when it comes to replacing fossil fuels and electricity. The Roadmap targets a 20% share in low-temperature industrial heat (3,200 GWth) and 16 % in overall low-temperature heat by 2050 (3,500 GWth). All stakeholders were called on by the IEA to work towards realising this aim. The 44-page study was first presented at the International Conference on Solar Heating and Cooling for Buildings and Industry, SHC 2012, in San Francisco, USA, in July 2012.

The roadmap outlines the future development of the four major solar thermal segments - hot water and space heating, process heat, solar cooling, solar swimming pools – and finds the largest potential in the building sector, with a total of 3,500 GWth of installed solar thermal capacity by 2050 (see the following table). Domestic hot water heating potential, however, is about 2.5 times higher than the solar space heating potential (see the final version of the roadmap attached).


Installed solar thermal capacity in 2050

Solar share in segment’s total low-temperature energy demand

Hot water and space heating

3,500 GWth

14 %

Process heat

3,200 GWth

20 %

Solar cooling

1,000 GWth

17 %

Solar swimming pool

200 GWth


According to the aim envisaged by the roadmap´s authors, the world will see an installed solar thermal capacity of 3,200 GWth in industrial low-temperature applications of up to 120 °C in 2050. The largest share would be found in China, where a high number of industries use low-temperature heat, whereas Europe’s industry is dominated by high-temperature use, such as in the concrete, iron, steel, chemical, or aluminium industry. 

”The roadmap correctly identifies reliable long-term framework conditions as the key challenge within the coming years. And, it does not overlook the role of non-economic factors, which currently hinder an even quicker adoption of solar thermal energy technologies,” Werner Weiss, Chairman of the IEA Solar Heating and Cooling Programme (IEA SHC), is quoted in a press release published in July. For example: In many regions throughout the world, solar thermal has already been cost-competitive with conventional technologies, but barriers - such as higher upfront investment costs and a lack of trained installers - keep people from choosing a solar heating and cooling solution.

The study recommends a number of actions for each solar thermal technology, while also addressing a certain stakeholder group and setting up the milestone timeline. The study’s authors encourage governments to take a lead role in creating a favourable investment climate by offering a stable, long-term policy framework for solar heating and cooling. This involves avoiding stop-and-go policies and keeping budgets independent from public funds. The action lists do not only refer to policies, but also show how research institutions can have a strong effect on market development. Key issues here are reducing costs, standardising systems and increasing efficiency.

Roadmap drafting was guided by the IEA Committee on Energy Research and Technology and the IEA Renewable Energy Working Party. During April 2011 and December 2011, four workshops in Paris (France), Beijing (China), Kassel (Germany) and Sydney (Australia) gathered solar thermal experts from around the world, providing useful insights into the issue.

More information:
IEA’s own news release on the roadmap:,28298,en.html


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