HOW TO GET STARTED

Guidance for cities and towns that are considering developing a district heating network in their own region

The following steps are suggested for cities and towns looking to develop their own district heating networks:

 

  1. Undertake heat mapping of demand and heat sources

In order to establish whether district heating could be suitable for your region, you must first undertake heat mapping of your region’s demand and heat sources. Our Guide to Mapping Heat Demand explains the key points to consider when creating a heat map of your region.

 

  1. Identify and rank opportunity areas where new district heating networks would be best developed

The main criteria that usually make district heating suitable in an area include higher densities and waste heat from nearby industry. According to Danish municipalities, areas with a heat density greater than 150 TJ/km² are deemed technically and economically suitable for developing traditional district heating systems. District heating is particularly suited to dense urban areas, such as large cities and towns, which typically have the supply (i.e. an abundance of heat sources) and demand (i.e. a strong customer base) to make a network viable.

Many public buildings are ideal for district heating as they have long operating hours with large space heating and hot water demands.

 

  1. Include sections in planning policy to support district heating and the utilisation of local waste heat sources

For more information on planning policy, a toolkit of spatial policy approaches to securing DHC through new development will soon be available on our website. Our Policy, Legal and Regulatory Review also highlights good practices and provides policy makers with pragmatic recommendations from local practitioners at any level of governance, be it local, regional, national or European.

 

  1. Carry out a feasibility study for one of the high-ranking opportunity areas to determine its suitability for district heating

You can use our CO2 Emission Calculator to calculate the emissions and cost/benefit of a district heating solution over individual heating alternatives for a specific area in North-West Europe.

There are many different types of business models available to public sector bodies when implementing a district heating network. These range from being fully-owned, operated and maintained by the public body itself right through to full privatisation, with various levels of public- private partnerships in between. You will soon be able to read more about these in our upcoming Guide to Governance/Business Models.

No matter what type of business model is selected, district heating projects generally require significant up-front investment. In countries where district heating is less established, it is likely that a mixture of funding streams will need to be used, such as public and private finance, government incentive schemes, or EU funding. Find out the key issues to consider in financing DH networks, and the different sources and structuring of investment finance available, in our Guide to Financing 4DHC.

 

  1. Develop policy to prioritise locating new high-density developments within or adjacent to the opportunity areas identified and future-proof these by adopting centralised hydronic heating systems with provision for future connection to a district heating network

Get in touch

Contact us to find out how to implement a district heating network in your own area

Get in touch

Useful resources

A Guide for Public Sector Organisations

on developing district heating in North-West Europe

Read more
Codema Webinar HeatNet

Webinar 1:

‘The Role of the Public Sector in Developing 4th Gen District Heating’

Watch webinar
Energy Cities HeatNet Webinar

Webinar 2:

‘How to Foster 4th Generation District Heating and Cooling’

Watch webinar

FAQs

District heating is a network of highly insulated pipes that delivers heat from a central energy source to provide space heating and hot water to multiple buildings connected to the network. The network carries heat by pumping hot water to the end-user, and this hot water is not used directly by the customer but is rather used to heat each customer's own water supply via a heat exchanger. It has the flexibility to combine multiple locally-available, renewable and low-carbon heat sources and it can also recycle waste heat produced from activities such as electricity generation or industrial processes, which would have otherwise been lost to the atmosphere or waterways.
The most important consideration when developing a district heating network is the heat demand density, i.e. areas which have buildings with high heat demand that are in close proximity to each other - this demand can be either from existing or planned buildings or a mixture of both. Areas with a heat demand density of greater than 150 TJ/km2 are considered to be feasible for developing a DH network. The second consideration is the heat supply. Utilising an existing heat source such as an industrial waste heat source may further increase the feasibility of a project, however, developing a new heat source such as gas CHP may also be feasible. The final area to consider is any physical constraints, e.g. river or rail crossings, which can impact the cost of the network and reduce its financial viability.
District heating schemes operate all across Europe. The European Heat Index shows that the majority of Europe is within +/- 20% of the average European heat demand, and there are hundreds of district heating schemes operating effectively within this area. District heating also provides hot water for showers and etc. which is not dependent on external temperatures. This explains the use of district heating networks in areas where annual space heating requirements are low, such as southern Spain and Portugal.
No, district heating is not only for large cities. The heat demand density, which is one of the main indicators for feasible district heating networks, can be achieved not only in cities, but also in small towns and villages.
The following steps are suggested:
  1. Undertake heat mapping of demand and heat sources
  2. Identify and rank opportunity areas where new district heating networks would be best developed
  3. Include sections in planning policy to support district heating and the utilisation of local waste heat sources
  4. Carry out a feasibility study for one of the high-ranking opportunity areas to determine its suitability for district heating
  5. Develop policy to prioritise locating new high-density developments within or adjacent to the opportunity areas identified and future-proof these by adopting centralised hydronic heating systems with provision for future connection to a district heating network
Yes, home heating systems will operate in the same way as traditional hydronic heating systems where each heat emitter (radiator, under floor heating loop, etc.) will have temperature controls to allow room temperatures to be adjusted as required.
It is not difficult to connect existing buildings to a district heating network. In cases where the building has an existing boiler, this would be replaced by a heat exchanger, which would typically take 1-2 days’ work to complete. Heat exchangers are less expensive than boilers and require less maintenance, as they have no moving parts.    In cases where a dwelling is directly heated with electricity (e.g. through storage heaters), replacement of the electric heaters with a wet system is estimated to take 3 days.  Furthermore, in Ireland, district heating can comply with Part L (Conservation of Fuel and Energy – Dwellings) of the country’s Building Regulations more cost-effectively than other common heating technologies such as building-level heat pumps, with a capital cost saving of 50 - 60% for a typical apartment.