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Six different strategies have recently been proposed for the European Union (EU) energy system in the European Commission's report, Energy Roadmap 2050. The objective for these strategies is to identify how the EU can reach its target of an 80% reduction in annual greenhouse gas emissions in 2050 compared to 1990 levels. None of these scenarios involve the large-scale implementation of district heating, but instead they focus on the electrification of the heating sector (primarily using heat pumps) and/or the large-scale implementation of electricity and heat savings. In this paper, the potential for district heating in the EU between now and 2050 is identified, based on extensive and detailed mapping of the EU heat demand and various supply options. Subsequently, a new ‘district heating plus heat savings’ scenario is technically and economically assessed from an energy systems perspective. The results indicate that with district heating, the EU energy system will be able to achieve the same reductions in primary energy supply and carbon dioxide emissions as the existing alternatives proposed. However, with district heating these goals can be achieved at a lower cost, with heating and cooling costs reduced by approximately 15%.