Fostering District Heating and Cooling in European Cities – Policy recommendations from the HeatNet NWE project

Recently we have heard a lot of stories about the development of district heating (DH) networks: from Marseille’s eco-district of Îlot Allar to Bordeaux’s plan to develop a DH network powered by geothermal energy, but also London using waste heat from its Underground to keep local homes warm… European cities are quickly discovering the advantages of such systems and setting up pioneering projects in this field!

Of course, at Energy Cities we don’t want our members (and readers) to lag behind! We are currently part of HeatNet Interreg North-West Europe (NWE), an EU-funded project aiming at creating an integrated transnational North-West European approach to the supply of renewable and low-carbon heat to residential and commercial buildings. The project will develop and test 6 local 4th generation district heating and cooling networks (DHC) in the UK, Ireland, Belgium, France, and the Netherlands (you can learn more about the project on the HeatNet website).

A 4th generation DHC is a low-temperature distribution system that minimises heat loss, integrates energy storage and renewable energy sources, and supplies multiple low energy buildings. The concept requires the development of new institutional and organisational frameworks. Our colleagues Kristina Dely and Peter Schilken took stock of the latest findings from the HeatNet project and put together some practical recommendations that local, national and EU policy makers could follow.

The proposals range from developing legislation and mandatory standards at the local and regional levels to offering financial support and local incentives. For example, local practitioners involved in HeatNet have expressed the need for clear national legislative policies acknowledging the benefits of DH. These policies should protect all parties for developed and developing heat networks, including ensuring a fair price for heat and standing charges, opting out of a network, and an independent mechanism to investigate poor practices. Among the financial recommendations, setting up low-cost loan facilities, start-up grants or guaranteed funds would allow DH to play a more central role in heat supply in North-West Europe.

The project practitioners also highlighted the importance of prioritising DH in local strategy, for example by using the opportunities arising from the replacement of very old gas lines or from city developments to introduce DH. Additional recommendations include engaging with local stakeholders, raising awareness and strengthening local governments’ skills and leadership.

Discover the full-text policy recommendations here!

HeatNet is not the only project on district heating we are currently involved in. Expect more DH news in the following months when, thanks to the Hotmaps project, we will start testing an open-source heating / cooling mapping and planning toolbox to provide DH data for EU member states at national and local level…
... To be continued!

©photos: Shutterstock

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