District heating
Asset management
Grid infrastructure

Filling in the blanks and saving Euros with smart meter data

By Steen Schelle Jensen, Head of Product Management, Kamstrup

Linking frequent smart heat meter data with facts about the pipes can fundamentally change the way district heating utilities plan, operate and maintain their distribution network. As a result, improving asset management and reducing heat losses in the network hold a huge savings potential.

Whereas utilities have previously focused on using data to improve the energy performance of individual buildings, tapping into the potential in an improved infrastructure requires them to look closer into the distribution network connecting the utility and the end users.

Zooming into the network
The distribution network presents particularly two opportunities for significant cost savings: reducing heat loss and improving asset management. Both call for more than general calculations based on theory, assumptions or even airborne thermography, which delivers only a snapshot of the network and no insight into its actual condition and development. There is a need for more frequent fact-based knowledge.

Utilities already have a flow, temperature and, in some cases, a pressure sensor in each building connected to the district heating network: smart heat meters transmitting data by the hour 365 days a year. However, data alone – albeit accurate and frequent – is not enough either. Data only becomes really valuable when you use it properly.

”The calculations of the utility’s pipe network are highly specific and relevant as the basis for infrastructure optimisation, both in terms of reducing losses and prioritising investments in network maintenance and capacity.”

- Steen Schelle Jensen, Head of Product Management, Kamstrup

Advanced mapping of your heat loss
Together with our customers, Kamstrup has created a tool connecting information from the meters with facts about the utility’s pipe network. Its calculations are therefore highly specific and relevant as the basis for infrastructure optimisation, both in terms of reducing losses and prioritising investments in network maintenance and capacity.

Network losses are perhaps the biggest cost driver for district heating utilities so the potential in eliminating them is enormous. Combining temperature and flow measurements from energy meters with information about the length and size of the pipes allows them to calculate temperatures in all parts of the network and accurately map their heat loss.

If a building’s forward temperature is lower than expected, this can indicate poor performing pipe insulation, a defect service pipe or incorrect meter installation causing lost revenue. If higher than expected, it can denote a leakage or perhaps an unknown or misadjusted bypass creating circulation that keeps the network temperature up. Whatever the reason, knowing the actual state of the network is the prerequisite for being able to act.

Network load monitoring
As more and more buildings are connected to the district heating network, utilities must constantly consider its capacity. Because building and expanding infrastructure is economically heavy, logistically comprehensive and time-consuming, there is great value in maximising utilisation of the current capacity. This enables utilities to prioritise and postpone infrastructure investments. Also, knowing their exact capacity helps them minimise the risk of oversizing new pipes.

By linking energy meter flow measurements in a specific area with detailed pipe characteristics, utilities get a precise picture of the load throughout the network. This verifies whether there is a match between a utility’s assumptions and reality plus it provides important knowledge for future expansion of its supply area – and facts are easier to convert into Euros than gut feelings.

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