Scientific Publications

Heating and cooling energy trends and drivers in buildings


The purpose of this paper is to provide a source of information on thermal energy use in buildings, its drivers, and their past, present and future trends on a global and regional basis. Energy use in buildings forms a large part of global and regional energy demand. The importance of heating and cooling in total building energy use is very diverse with this share varying between 18% and 73%. Biomass is still far the dominant fuel when a global picture is considered; the role of electricity is substantially growing, and the direct use of coal is disappearing from this sector, largely replaced by electricity and natural gas in the most developed regions. This paper identifies the different drivers of heating and cooling energy demand, and decomposes this energy demand into key drivers based on a Kaya identity approach: number of households, persons per household, floor space per capita and specific energy consumption for residential heating and cooling; and GDP, floor space per GDP, and specific energy consumption for commercial buildings. This paper also reviews the trends in the development of these drivers for the present, future – and for which data were available, for the past – in 11 world regions as well as globally. Results show that in a business-as-usual scenario, total residential heating and cooling energy use is expected to more or less stagnate, or slightly decrease, in the developed parts of the world. In contrast, commercial heating and cooling energy use will grow in each world region. Finally, the results show that per capita total final residential building energy use has been stagnating in the vast majority of world regions for the past three decades, despite the very significant increases in energy service levels in each of these regions.