Most people don't realize it, but heating buildings consumes more energy than that used for electricity or transportation so increasing the use of solar thermal energy is not only important, but timely as our demand for energy continues to steadily grow.

Solar thermal energy is appropriate for both heating and cooling. Key applications for solar technologies are those that require low temperature heat, such as domestic hot water heating, space heating, pool heating, drying processes, and certain industrial processes. Solar applications also can meet cooling needs, where the supply (sunny summer days) and the demand (desire for a cool indoor environment) are well matched.

Unfortunately, solar represents only a small share of all the heating and cooling needs. The main barriers preventing the greater use of solar energy are:

  • Many solar technologies are not yet cost-competitive.
  • Current government policies benefit existing non-solar technologies.
  • The environmental costs of using fossil fuels are not taken into account.
  • Poor building energy efficiency.

To overcome these barriers and penetrate the global market, the IEA Solar Heating and Cooling (SHC) Programme is working in three key areas:

  • Education of users and decision makers.
  • Expansion of the solar thermal market.
  • Research, development and testing of hardware, materials and designs.

Solar Housing - Netherlands
Energy is being consumed at an ever growing rate -- worldwide consumption is projected to increase 54% by 2025 from 2001 levels -- while the serious environmental  implications of fossil fuel consumption have become increasingly obvious.