Posted on Tuesday, October 2, 2018 by Steen Schelle Jensen

Inevitable DH revolution?

– assuming responsibility, the three Cs and DEdays ‘18
Attending the Global District Energy Days in Helsinki inspired some reflections. Reflections I would like to share with you.

First of all, I’m a big fan of district heating (and cooling) and there is no doubt that successful and nationwide district heating is one of the major reasons for Finland being able to claim the cleanest air in the world according to the Finnish Minister of the Environment, Energy and Housing, Kimmo Tiilikainen (though many other countries with a strong tradition in renewables would probably like to make the same claim J). 

I strongly believe that district heating is a key technology to succeeding with the decarbonisation of buildings. Buildings that today count for 50% of our overall energy consumption in EU and to a very large extent are still fossil-fuelled. This is a huge challenge. But is the district energy revolution really as inevitable as we all seem to think?

Paul Voss really touched upon this in his exciting opening speech. I’m pretty sure that almost all people attending in Helsinki last week share the passion for more district heating. But will the district heating revolution happen for certain? Or will the Helsinki event go down in history as another group hug for the district heating industry – without actually moving the sector further towards increasing its share of the energy market? 

"District heating currently only has a 11-12 percent market share in EU and 8 percent globally."

Global District Energy days sounds like a really big event – GLOBAL even, as the name implies! But in fact, district heating currently only has a 11-12% market share in EU and 8% globally. This is just to remind us that nothing happens on its own, and the best technology does not always win. Even though we tend to think about district heating as the inevitable truth (thanks Paul for reminding us of the balance between advocacy and conviction), its global market share will not grow automatically. That will require actions from several parties.

Thanks to Euroheat & Power and solid research within the district heating industry, Brussels is now aware of the potential that district heating holds, and the technology has received the attention it deserves after many years as the best kept secret in the energy sector. 

This is the clear result of the HeatRoadmap Europe research and many other activities from dedicated people in the industry. It is also great to see policy makers creating incentives for more district heating in the Clean Energy Package and the undergoing revision of the EED (energy efficiency) and the RED (renewable energy) directives. This is of great importance. Absolutely. But it still doesn’t make district energy inevitable. I my opinion, Brussels has more or less delivered what is possible from a policy perspective. 

"Brussels is now aware of the potential that district heating holds, and the technology has received the attention it deserves after many years as the best kept secret in the energy sector."


The next step in this revolution is therefore the three C’s – also as mentioned in Helsinki: Cities, Competitiveness and Customers! We need cities that, based on the policy framework from Brussels and national implementation of the Clean Energy Package, believe in district heating. Cities that want to be first movers in making the heat supply in their city green and in getting air that is as fresh and clean as it is in Finland. In order to make that happen, district heating obviously needs to be competitive compared to other alternative heat sources and an attractive and acceptable option to consumers. So let’s, as a unified industry, focus here. We all have a role to play.


As a representative for a company that fuels the digitalisation of district heating through intelligent meters, we can play a natural role in improving its efficiency and competitiveness – not to mention its attractiveness to the end users. This is a journey that we at Kamstrup have already started, and we are investing both our time and money in this field. Because we do believe that the district heating revolution is inevitable, and we will take our part of the responsibility for making it happen. District heating is undoubtedly a key part of the integrated and renewable energy system of the future. And Helsinki was not just another group hug for the global (albeit small) district heating industry. It was one more of many steps in the right direction and now it’s on all of us to keep on moving – and pushing – forward.
 
And at the end of the day, it is my opinion that we need a unified approach from the entire industry. When Policy makers, technology and visionary utilities work together… that’s when we see real innovation, real progress and real opportunity to fulfil the potential of district energy.

"When policy makers, technology and visionary utilities work together… that’s when we see real innovation, real progress and real opportunity to fulfil the potential of district energy.”

Are you ready for the revolution?

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