DBDH expertise – Enthusiastically received by the Netherlands – “It is the best-read piece of this week!”

Date: 28/01/2021

Tips from a Danish heat network expert.

Where almost all of the Netherlands is connected to gas, it is normal for Denmark to be connected to a heat network. More than 80% of the population does not use gas to heat their homes here. Now that we all have to get rid of gas by 2050, we can learn a lot from this precursor. We therefore spoke with Morten Duedahl, business development manager of the Danish Heating Networks Council, about how he believes the Netherlands can best tackle this.

The roll-out of the heat network in Denmark started during the oil crisis in the 1970s and currently 2/3 of all homes are heated in this way. In the Netherlands we opted for natural gas, but that was too expensive for Denmark due to the lack of presence. Installing a heat network was therefore easier, cheaper and also better, according to Duedahl. How this unfolded was up to each municipality. As long as they adhered to the heat law.

The Danish heat law
This law states that every municipality must look for a solution that best suits its community. Citizens should not be forced to pay more than for alternative heat solutions, but the companies that supply the heat should not incur any losses either. In addition, the municipalities must demonstrate that they also consider the fate of the community in their considerations, for example by combating CO2 emissions and other pollution.

A big difference between the gas connections in the Netherlands and the heat network in Denmark is the price. Where in the Netherlands we all pay the same for a cubic meter of gas, the prices of the heat network in Denmark differ per city. Because they depend on the choices made by each individual heat network company, taking into account costs, the environment and other factors. “When the heat network was rolled out, the competition for district heating was gas. But today we should not compare the price with gas prices. Gas will soon disappear, so we can better compare it with other alternatives, ”Duedahl notes.

Political clout
What, according to the Dane, is now absolutely necessary is that political decisions are made very quickly about heat networks and that a good heat law is introduced. “It took us forty years to get there. But we were not under the extreme pressure of CO2 reduction and the desire to get everyone off the gas. It is important that your government takes decisions quickly and gets to work immediately so that the heat network can be rolled out. ”

What would Duedahl's first step be if he were in charge in the Netherlands? “To get the heat network going, the government has to work locally and nationally. That is why I think it is very important that the government creates better conditions for this. Their task is to make the alternative to natural gas attractive, so that gas is no longer so competitive. Green, sustainable solutions that create jobs must therefore be supported by the government. But like I said, gas will disappear, so you can't really keep comparing it to that. You can only compare it with other alternatives that are seen as good future solutions. But if the prices are higher than what people are paying now, they will naturally complain. I would too. So the pricing policy needs to be adjusted. "

In addition, planning is everything, according to Duedahl. “Every city has to think carefully about which infrastructure suits them best and then immediately take action. Just do it! ”

"Heat networks must be able to operate on any available source."

Where the heat for the heat networks comes from is less important, he believes, and will differ per area. “The port of Rotterdam, for example, produces so much heat that a large part of Rotterdam can be heated with it. So why waste that resource? It is better to get the heat out of the industry than to create another source. You prefer to absorb heat from everyone who can provide warmth. In essence, this is the essence of a heat network: moving heat from a place where it has no value or where it is even a waste product, to a place where it is of great value. Like your house on a cold day, or when your teen takes a long, hot shower. "

What is in any case crucial, according to the Dane, is that the heat networks can be connected to different sources. “They must be able to work on any available source. In some places, that could be fifteen to twenty different sources, from a local supermarket to a large refinery. Then if circumstances change, you can easily switch from source if it becomes too expensive, or if you no longer want to use heat from the waste incineration, for example.

Individual solutions
We have been talking about heat networks all along now. But what about individual solutions such as heat pumps? “Individual solutions are often more expensive. In any case, a heat pump is not a solution for a busy inhabited area. They take up a lot of space and make noise. Moreover, the electricity grid must be strengthened when we all use the heat pump, because that is what the tent works for. On a cold winter day, consumption is then just five to ten times higher than average. And are we sure that we have enough 'green energy' on the grid for that? ”

But for a remote building, the heat pump is ideal again, according to Duedahl. “It is far too much work to build a pipeline there. Moreover, it is very expensive. ”

Future of Denmark
So much for the tips for the Netherlands. But what changes does he expect in Denmark in the near future? “Even more Danes are switching to the heat network. There are two reasons for this. First, more and more people are moving from the countryside to the city. And secondly, we also need to get rid of gas by 2050, ”explains Duedahl. "In addition, we must keep the district heating companies on their toes and continue to supply a competitive product."

Article recently published in WARMTE365