In 2013, when Assens District Heating decided to invest in intelligent heat meters and a remotely read network solution, digitalisation was still a buzzword to many, and no one knew the actual value of its potential. Nevertheless, the utility had a clear expectation that more frequent meter data would provide better opportunities for optimisation. They therefore went from half-yearly readings to hourly values – although they started off unsure of how to handle and utilise the large amounts of data.
”We didn’t exactly know how and for what we would use all this data, but we expected to learn more about cooling and provide better service to our customers,” says Marc Roar Hintze, CEO of Assens District Heating. Today, the increased digitalisation has delivered several measurable results on the production side as well as in the distribution network.
Data-driven operations optimisation
The first phase of utilising the large amounts of data was optimisation of the distribution network. Specifically, the utility has been able to lower the forward temperature significantly. Previously, it was determined based on the end users who lived the furthest away resulting in a higher temperature than necessary. Today, it is optimised based on what happens in the network.
”Once all the meters were up and running, we were facing a wall of data. But the tools we got from Kamstrup, suddenly allowed us to see – on an hourly basis – the exact temperature throughout the network. Based on the continuous digitalisation of our operations, we have actually been able to lower the forward temperature by 6-8 degrees.” The utility has also been able to remove its more than 100 bypasses around the network.
”By optimising our network operations we have, over the last few years, saved 2,500-3,000 MWh – that’s approx. 2.5% – and reduced pipeline losses by 12%,” explains Marc Roar Hintze. ”Our data has helped us understand our hundred kilometres of pipes and what actually happens out there when we e.g. lower the temperature. Even with employees who have 10, 20 and 30 years of experience we haven’t previously had a full overview of the consequences of making that kind of changes.”
In total, the operations optimisation of the network has resulted in savings equivalent to DKK 245 per household. And the utility expects to gain even more when they commence the next phase shortly: ”The savings so far were generated by looking at the volume and temperature of the water we pump out. Only now do we start looking at individual buildings, end users with poor energy behaviour and inefficient installations.”