Here, Erik Christiansen walks us through how to successfully implement a District Heating plan and engage with citizens
Energy consumption in buildings has one of the highest impacts on climate. Buildings are responsible for approximately 40% of energy consumption and 36% of CO2 emissions in the EU.
Many cities, municipalities, and local authorities try to diminish CO2 emissions and look for sustainable technologies to reach local goals to lower emissions. At the same time, they want to secure and access heat supply for the lowest price.
The process for planning district heating contains all the ingredients to reach these targets. Since multiple renewable heat production technologies can be integrated in a DH system, heat prices will be influenced by the costs of a chosen technology and the available economic means. A DH system has a long lifespan and innovative sustainable technologies can be integrated in the system during the lifespan. Thus, a flexible heat system is established.
Heat planning is a major tool for DH in urban areas with high building density and in villages with less building density. The DH plan must adapt to local energy production facilities, e.g. from wind, solar or hydro facilities, and to local heat demand.
Environmental and economic assessment tools must play important roles in the planning process as well as communication with the citizens.1 Today a DH project is successful when the project evaluation shows benefits for local society in terms of environmental targets, e.g. low CO2 emissions, and economical value for the society via the heat utility entity and the individual consumer. In addition, citizens involvement and understanding of the DH benefits are vital for success.
Danish heat plans are normally developed by DH entities, i.e. cooperatives owned by the consumers or owned by municipalities. They are presented for the local authorities which comment on the plan and execute a hearing process. After the hearing period, the local council approves the final heat plan.
Thus, the planning process must secure input from all stakeholders, mainly local authorities, heat utility entities in the area and citizens.
When presenting a new sustainable heat technology for the local authority, you might experience precarious handling of your project. A project with a water-to-heat system (heat pump) with the extraction of heat from ground water can work as an example.
There might be multiple approaches to the project e.g.:
- a hydrology approach where hydrology expertise from the staff is predominant, and project evaluation will be influenced by hydrological science, or;
- a mechanical approach where the “machinery” is in focus, like the heat pump, meaning the impact from the mechanical technology is, e.g. emission, noise and pollution.
The evaluation period will typically depend on the approach that is chosen by the local authority. Therefore, it is important that the project manager presents the project in an understandable way with an emphasis on a thorough description of the chosen technology. The evaluation process is successful when heat utility entity and the local authority cooperate to answer all questions in a short period.
Planning is a process which must be detailed.
DH marketing in a residential area
One of the most important things to consider, when planning a DH project located in a residential area, is how to involve and attract the individual citizen. If you don’t succeed on this parameter, you don’t have a project to realise, because you need a certain percentage of the heat demand in a residential area to convert into DH.
In order to know how to involve and attract the individual citizen, you need to get an overall idea of who they are, what their needs are, and what is most important to them about heat. The next step is to implement your knowledge in marketing and communication activities.
The marketing phase is the first activity in the DH implementation process. In this phase, you put emphasis on communication activities about your arguments and tools through different channels and to different groups of citizens, based on your research. When enough citizens have signed up, the project goes on.
Tools that involve and attract
One of the tools EBO Consult and the DH cooperatives in Hvidovre have developed is the package approach. Every citizen that accepts the approach gets a visit of an account manager that explains in detail on how, when, and where the installation will be installed. Then the contractor establishes a heat service line to the house. Afterwards, the contractor removes the previous heating source and a DH unit is delivered and installed. At this stage, the consumer is connected to the DH grid. The aim of the approach is to make the installation of DH as easy as possible and affordable. The citizen only has two actions to do: 1) sign a DH contract, 2) make sure that the contractor has access to install DH.
The package approach is cheaper than a regular installation of DH, and it is only offered during the marketing phase around 2-3 months. It motivates more citizens to act now rather than later, which is crucial in a DH project as you need a high connection percentage in the beginning.
Another tool is the technical service. The service is a check every second year, performed by authorised service engineers, of whether the DH installation is installed in the most efficient way. The service is for free and available for all DH consumers. The aim is to improve the efficiency in the DH grid which benefits the DH entity and the individual consumer economically.
In the European project, REScoop PLUS2, the package approach and the technical service were selected as the most effective tools when converting individual consumers to DH and achieving energy savings and efficiency.
1 The Danish Energy Agency has launched an example of an assessment tool on the website www.ens.dk, based on the planning experiences in Denmark.
2 Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme – The energy efficiency toolkit for energy communities 2019 – agreement No 696084.
*Please note: This is a commercial profile