Heating: Planning our way out of the climate crisis

strategic heat planning

Grundfos Holding A/S explains here the future of heating in Europe, to be dominated by district heating and heat pumps, as we plan our way out of the climate crisis

The future of heating in Europe will be dominated by district heating and heat pumps as we progress towards technologies capable of decarbonising heat. For us to succeed on this journey and choose the best and most efficient solutions in the right places, planning is an absolute necessity.

Humanity is facing one of its greatest challenges reaching the Paris Agreement goal of staying below 2° global temperature rise by 2100. In July 2021, the European Union introduced its ‘Fit-for-55’ package which is intended to pave the road for 55% greenhouse gas emission reduction in 2030 compared to 1990 and carbon neutrality by 2050. The European Union, therefore, is a global frontrunner and lighthouse, but the road towards the goals is still bumpy.

Reaching climate neutrality

Getting to climate neutrality is faced with great obstacles such as rising energy demands which today outruns the expansion of renewable energy production, massive fluctuations in energy prices and civil resistance against changes in everyday living conditions. The lack of concrete plans that both take climate and social responsibility into account is, therefore, worrying.

We cannot wait any longer to lower our carbon emissions and we, therefore, need to do the green transition right the first time, so we don’t have to go back to the drawing board when it is too late. Currently, the heating sector has massive unused energy and carbon-neutral potentials such as geothermal, wind and, solar energy and surplus heat from industry and data centres. All the required energy is there, but we need a district heating infrastructure to utilise them in an intelligent way.

Why should we make strategic heat planning?

Heating of our buildings is one of those sectors that need to make a fast green and socially responsible transition. Currently, 50% of the EU’s energy consumption goes to heating and cooling and most of this is for space heating. However, only 13% of thermal energy in Europe is produced by renewable energy sources and 44% from natural gas alone. (1) Therefore, it is crystal clear that we need a fast transition towards energy-efficient and carbon-neutral heating. This must, however, be done in a feasible way for all income classes.

Strategic heat planning is the smartest way to find the most cost-effective transitions of the heating sector by harvesting all our available energy resources with current technology. If we make an effective and impactful heat planning, we can start the green transition TODAY, making use of all heat resources across different sectors and creating the most cost-effective heating sector that benefits the entire society.

By 2050, heat pumps will be massively used, both in district heating and for individual use. District heating is the most cost-effective solution in cities, whereas individual heat pumps are the most promising technology in lesser densely populated areas. Therefore, heat planning should be utilised to secure that we use the smartest solutions in the right areas.

However, strategic heat planning does not stop there. With today’s technologies, we can harvest a much greater spectrum of different energies for our heat supply. In district heating, new technologies can lower the temperature in the grids and we can, therefore, better connect geothermal energy directly. Moreover, heat that today is wasted from the production and running of industries and data centres can also be connected to district heating. Therefore, it is important that local decision-makers can coordinate and integrate all the energy resources in different sectors, so we can lower our total energy demand.

Heat planning can secure a more stable energy production as we move on to renewable energy sources. Wind and solar energy have the obstacle of fluctuations in energy production, and they do not always correspond with our energy demand. However, by storing surplus energy into heated water or rocks district heating can be an important team player to the electrification by storing the produced energy for later use.

Lastly, strategic heat planning will make sure that the green transition of the heating sector will become transparent for the population. By informing the population about the future of heating in their local community, citizens can become more aware of their future housing conditions.

What can be achieved – Heat plan Denmark 2021 (2)

Strategic heat planning has been around for many years. However, today’s politicians must understand its true potential for turning the tide against climate change. This potential has recently been demonstrated in Heatplan Denmark 2021 from Aalborg University. It is a comprehensive GIS mapping (3) and heat strategy for Denmark, where all energy sources and possible district heating grids have been mapped and calculated.

The project shows that the most cost-effective way for Denmark to create a carbon-neutral heating sector is by:

  • Renovations of the building stock to save 32%-36% on heating demand.
  • Expansion of district heating grids to cover 63%-70% of heating demand.
  • The transition towards 60° temperature in district heating
  • Integration of geothermal energy (17% of heat supply in 2045) and surplus heat (21%). (4)

Heatplan Denmark 2021 also delivers usable GIS maps to be used by municipalities and utilities for making heat strategies by checking heating demand and possible sources of energy such as geothermal and surplus heat in their area.

Similar work has been done in Europe with tools such as HeatRoadMap Europe (5) and HotMaps (6) which have also been made in collaboration with Aalborg University. These tools promote similar pathways to Heatplan Denmark for other European heating sectors.

Heat planning alone will not be sufficient to stay within the Paris Agreement. But it shows precisely how the heating sector can contribute to our collective struggle towards carbon neutrality by 2050. With heat planning, the transition can be done in a quick, cost-effective manner, and by a socially responsible process while reducing the pressure on our rising energy demands.

Therefore, we strongly support the European Commission’s proposals for mandatory national and municipal heat strategies in their revised Energy Efficiency Directive from July 2021 and that it will remain a part of the final version.



  1. HeatRoadMap Europe, Heating and Cooling Energy Demands, https://heatroadmap.eu/heating-and-cooling-energy-demand-profiles/
  2. Mathiesen, Brian Vad, Henrik Lund et al. (2021), ”Varmeplan Danmark 2021 – En Klimaneutral Varmeforsyning”, Aalborg University, https://vbn.aau.dk/ws/portalfiles/portal/449742535/Varmeplan_Danmark_2021_Hovedrapport.pdf
  3. Definition: A geographic information system (GIS) is a computer system for capturing, storing, checking, and displaying data related to positions on Earth’s surface.
  4. Surplus heat from industries, datacentres and PowerToX stations.
  5. https://heatroadmap.eu/
  6. https://www.hotmaps-project.eu/


*This is a commercial profile.

© 2019. This work is licensed under CC-BY-NC-ND.

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