European Union to Turn Up District Heat

The European Commission is aiming to develop the potential of district heating in order to boost the region’s energy efficiency.
Published: Sun 11 May 2014

Heat makes up nearly half of the world’s final energy consumption, but the heat industry says that it is often overlooked in energy and climate talks.

Greater efficiency potential

This is about to change as European Commission is to hold a review of energy efficiency measures. Heating measures are to be prioritized, according to Samuel Furfari, an adviser to the European Commission’s director general.

Mr Furfari says that there should be more focus on heating since there is “a lot of low-hanging fruit - much more than in electricity.” He explains that the Commission wants to “raise awareness on energy efficiency, particularly in local authorities.”

He explains that the Commission has done more work on the development of electricity than efficiency in the heating sector. This is due to the difficulties in transposing a one-size-fits-all solution to countries with such different climates as Finland and Italy.
Mr Furfari points out that there is a greater potential to save more energy through district heating and in combination with structural funds and biomass.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that excess heat from power stations within the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, comprising the world’s 34 richest countries, amounts to roughly 40 exajoules per year, equivalent to 10 times the European Union’s final energy consumption.

A Heat Roadmap Europe, drawn up by the Aalborg and Halmstad Universities last year, argues that a strategy meshing buildings efficiency with clustered heat demand and district heating networks can save around €100 billion a year-more than a strategy focused on buildings alone.

District heating-the way forward

Mike Smith, Director of Cofely District Energy, is convinced that district heating is the way forward for efficient energy use. He explains, “We can’t be throwing away heat anymore. So in the power stations where we throw away heat, in the energy-from-waste plants and various other processes, we can’t be doing that and we need to use energy more efficiently. And district heating does that.”

He points out that district heating “should be specified as the norm” in new buildings and towns: “The consumer doesn’t mind where the heat comes from as long as it’s coming at a reasonable price and it’s reliable.”

The ideal prescription is probably a combination of demand reduction measures in buildings, further development of district heating and cooling networks in cities and heat pumps where demand is less dense. This is according to Paul Voss, the director of Euroheat and Power. He points out that a concerted effort to tackle the question of heating and cooling at European Union level would be a significant step forward.