According to an expert, achieving this on a larger scale requires political efforts.
By Simone Springborg Nielsen
Following the autumn and winter with increasing inflation and high gas and energy prices, there is a significant interest in finding alternatives to heating from gas, oil, or wood pellets.
However, connecting to the country’s large district heating systems can be expensive. This has led small communities nationwide in Denmark to explore the possibility of creating small mini-district heating plants.
This solution was chosen eight years ago in the village of Føns in Western Funen, where Denmark’s smallest local district heating plant was established in a converted horse stable.
Two biomass boilers and two heat pumps ensure that several of the village’s residents have been able to replace expensive oil-fired boilers with a more affordable alternative right from the start.
Providing cheaper heating for 53 households
Today, Føns Nærvarme supplies heat to 53 homes. The success has been so significant that the plant’s chairman, Ole Back, has visited several municipalities and assembly halls nationwide to share more about this popular solution.
“In the past 18 months, we have really noticed that more communities have contacted us to learn how we have approached it,” says the chairman.
Skarp Salling in Northern Jutland is one of the villages where a connection fee to the existing district heating plant, around 150,000 per household, has sparked the project for a local district heating plant.
“My dream is that in a few years, we can say: Move to Skarp Salling and Brøndum. There are cheap houses, and you hardly have to pay anything for heating,” says Else Wiese from the local working group in Skarp Salling.
Expert: “Authorities need to provide the funds” Brian Vad Mathisen, a professor in energy planning at Aalborg University, is positive about the increasing interest in local district heating. However, he emphasizes that political support and access to the finances required for a local district heating plant are necessary.
“It is crucial that the authorities make it available by, for example, replenishing the district heating fund and providing access to low-interest loans,” he says.
The district heating fund is a climate initiative designed to provide financial assistance for transitioning from oil and gas boilers to more climate-friendly district heating. When applications were opened for the district heating fund in January, there were more applications in two months than funds available for the year.
A local district heating plant is a collective task. Although funds are helpful, the experience from Western Funen also shows that guidance and assistance in getting started are essential. It is not an easy process, says Ole Back. “We are completely driven by volunteers and pure amateurs, so there are plenty of challenges along the way. How many pipes do you need? How much heat should you produce, and how should you produce it?”
The significant task was solved with the help of engineers and professionals from Middelfart Municipality and strong local and voluntary support.
At Føns Nærvarme, no funds are allocated for salaries for the heating plant; therefore, the lower heating bill is exchanged for voluntary efforts from everyone. “If we don’t do it voluntarily, our heating will become more expensive. It requires someone willing to roll up their sleeves. It doesn’t happen by itself,” says Ole Back, chairman of Føns Nærvarme.
“It is crucial that the authorities make it available by, for example, replenishing the district heating fund and providing access to low-interest loans.”
Brian Vad Mathiesen, Professor at Aalborg University