Close collaboration is the key to innovation

Date: 13 November 2019

Close collaboration of development of new technologies within the sector of district heating has globally given Denmark a special status. A status obtained by the massive focus on increased digitalisation, which delivers measurable results and is directly linked to a more sustainable energy system as well as cost reductions.

By Jens Andersen, CEO of Næstved District Heating:

In Denmark, we have a tradition of developing new technology in close collaboration between a utility and a supplier.

This requires a consistent framework, where current legislation allows innovation and does not restrict or inhibit utilities ability to innovate and think “out of the box”. There is a real danger of over legislating and by doing so pull the plug on business models and implemention of new technology, which could help reaching our ambitious climate targets.

It also requires that both utilities and suppliers are very open about their strengths and weaknesses and that there is a great amount of trust between the partners.

My experience is that suppliers to the district heating sector are very responsive towards suggestions related to new technology or improvements in existing technology. I do not doubt that this close collaboration between suppliers and utilities is the primary reason for the high level of efficiency in Danish district heating. And due to this, Denmark has suppliers for the industry who provide some strong and attractive products with a massive potential for export.

The collaboration between the utilities and the suppliers is also a razor-sharp balance. The utilities have to be impartial and follow the legislation regarding the choice of supplier and order placements. It is of utmost importance that no suppliers are given preferential treatment as it can lead to a competitive advantage. In Denmark, we have found the perfect balance meaning that the Best Available Technology (BAT) is available for utilities. The results is that we have some good, large and strong suppliers focusing on innovation and development.

“The result is that we have some good, large and strong suppliers focusing on innovation and development”

Innovation occurs when (among other things) the utilities make their production- and distribution facilities avaiable for suppliers to test new technology in real-life settings. Afterward, the utilities willingly participate in conferences in Denmark as well as abroad to inform about the results obtained by the use of new technology.

An example of new technology is heat meters with hourly readings, which Næstved District Heating implemented in 2016. All this new data has provided us with whole new insights into the consumers’ consumption patterns and how to optimise energy efficiency at each customer. The transparency this new data has given us, enables us to make an effective and targeted effort towards customers with low energy utilisation (low delta T) and the results are crystal clear! The effort has reduced the return temperature by 5 °C and in great periods of the year, the temperature in the network has been lowered by 10 °C. Overall, this has reduced our heat loss by 8 %. On top of that, we have managed to lower the heating bill to our customers by up-to 10 %. This is just a preliminary results. We do not doubt that there are more savings and reductions to obtain.

“All this new data has provided us with whole new insights into the consumers’ consumption patterns and how to optimise energy efficiency at each customer. The transparency this new data has given us, enables us to make an effective and targeted effort towards customers with low energy utilisation”

It is my hope that the framework district heating utilities are working under, will not inhibit to innovate and through innovation contribute to better service to customers and higher energy efficiency. Utilities and suppliers can deliver on the current agenda based on the described collaboration. However, we need the right framework to work under.

Source: Kamstrup