Europe’s run on hot & cold

Date: 26/05/2015

With growing political and institutional support, and a host of initiatives working on deployment across Europe, Clare Taylor asks whether 2015 is the EU’s breakthrough year for sustainable heating and cooling.

Denmark's Solrød biogas project has won €12.7 million in investment, kick-started by Intelligent Energy Europe (IEE) funding
Denmark’s Solrød biogas project has won €12.7 million in investment, kick-started by Intelligent Energy Europe (IEE) Funding (Credit: Solrød Biogas/Peter Jarvad)

As sustainable energy moves up the global political agenda, low-carbon solutions for heating and cooling are coming to the fore. There is an emerging consensus on what could be a big part of the solution here, with the International Energy Agency recently citing cogeneration and district heating as ‘an essential part of strategies for greenhouse gas emissions mitigation and energy security.’

Analysis of the European energy system’s resilience in the face of disruptions in Russian gas imports presented in the European Commission’s (EC) Stress Test Communication pointed to fuel switching through district heating and cogeneration as a key measure for ensuring long-term energy security.

This year, there is a policy push from Brussels via the Energy Efficiency Directive (EED) (Article 14). By the end of 2015, all Member States are required for the first time to submit to the EC a comprehensive assessment of the potential for the application of high-efficiency CHP and efficient district heating and cooling (DHC).

Planning for the future
Led by trade body Euroheat & Power, the Intelligent Energy Europe-funded STRATEGO project is supporting the development of national heating and cooling roadmaps (required by the EED) by compiling a pan-European heat map, the European Thermal Atlas.

According to Nicolas Février, who is co-ordinating the project, ‘City planners have a pivotal role in developing eco-districts where the upgrading of building stock goes hand in hand with the establishment, expansion or modernisation of district heating and cooling networks. This atlas will allow you to rapidly check the thermal resources available in your region as well as the thermal demand.’

Think global, act regional
IEE-funded projects RES H/C SPREAD and SmartReflex are also focused on planning. SmartReflex is working across six regions in Germany, Italy, Spain and Ireland. Judging by the enthusiastic reception of the project’s first event in Ireland, there is a growing awareness of district heating as a low-carbon technology. According to Morten Hofmeister from Danish company PlanEnergi, which is involved in the project, ‘This is not primarily a technological challenge. The real challenge is to organise collectively and getting people to understand the benefits of a collective system.’

RES H/C SPREAD maps supply and demand on a regional basis (mostly within the Mediterranean region), with cost-benefit analysis for specific sites. Project coordinator Stefano Faberi says: ‘The real potential is not clear yet. We think that there is good potential for single systems powered by renewables, especially in hotels and the leisure sector, but on a regional basis the challenges are constancy and density of demand. Our ultimate ambition is to facilitate takeup into regional planning. There are a lot of new actors entering this market and pushing for renewable-powered systems, but I suspect we won’t see real movement until two to three years’ time.’

In terms of energy governance, the regional agenda is of increasing importance. From 2014-2020, European Structural & Investment (ESI) Funds will channel more than €38 billion ($43 billion) into the low-carbon economy, more than double the amount allocated in 2007-2013. Among others, Poland and Romania are emerging as the big winners here, with more than €8 billion and €3.4 billion investment respectively. The potential impact of the ESI funds in less-developed European regions cannot be underestimated – in some areas, ESI funds account for more than 90% of public investment.

Keeping cool
District cooling remains seriously under-exploited with current market share as low as 2%. The RESCUE project includes updating the European Cooling Index methodology. Two utilities are involved (Climespace, Helsingin Energia), along with local government association ICLEI and Swedish consultancy Capital Cooling. Commenting on the project results, Henrik Frohm of Capital Cooling says: ‘In particular, the workshops have been really successful in engaging with local governments. In Tartu and in Aarhus, district cooling projects are developing as a direct result.’

Renewable solutions
Moving into implementation, other projects are focusing on dismantling market barriers to wider deployment of renewables, including solar thermal, bioenergy, and shallow and deep geothermal.

SDHPLUS is building on the previous IEE-funded project SDHtake-off, promoting solar district heating (SDH) plants – large-scale solar thermal technology supplying renewable, zero-emission heat from large solar collector fields to residential and industrial areas via district heating networks. In Denmark, solar district heating is now operating at feasible commercial heat costs. Demonstration projects exist in Sweden, Denmark, Germany and Austria. Activities are also developing in Italy, France, Spain and Norway.

The deep geothermal potential for district heating applications is significant and competitive. The GEODH project has 14 target countries in its sights and has developed an online map showing the potential of geothermal in these areas.

Open for business
Other projects are using EU funding for project development assistance to leverage further investment. An innovative biogas project led by Solrød Municipality in Denmark has now achieved €12.7 million in investment, kick-started by IEE funding via the Mobilising Local Energy Investment (MLEI) facility. (Project development assistance can be found under Horizon 2020.)

In the Netherlands, Etriplus aims at providing a low-cost and secure energy supply for the agro-industrial area of Greenport Venlo. Key stakeholders are area developers Californië, Freshpark and Siberië; the greenhouse owners, the agro-logistic companies, Etriplus, the local municipalities and the province of Limburg. Aiming for a total investment of €54 million to realise their plans, €1,793,582 has already been provided by the MLEI-PDA.

Peter Elbers of DCGV explains the necessary bridging role of public funding: ‘The possible financial gap cannot be filled by market parties because of the risks. Public parties like DCGV, the province of Limburg, the national government or the EU play a vital role.’

In Hungary, another beneficiary of MLEI funding (€285,000), the City of Kecskemét, is hoping to transform its natural gas-fired district heating network into a geothermal system – and aiming to attract investment of over €30 million for the project. A number of Hungarian cities operate district heating networks that can be powered by local geothermal energy. ‘It is a big market, and there are big opportunities’, says Pál Boza, who is co-ordinating the project.

The CELCIUS project, funded under the EU Smart Cities & Communities/Seventh Framework research programme (to the tune of €14 million, with an additional €12 million from the project partners) is working in London, Rotterdam, Genoa, Gothenburg and Cologne on twelve new demonstrator projects. Market conditions among project partners vary hugely from the mature market in Gothenburg of more than 90% penetration to around 2% market share in Genoa.

In December 2014 in Gothenburg, the project achieved a world first when a district heating connection to the ferry Stena Danica was inaugurated. Previously the Stena Danica was supplied with hot water from oil burning when she was moored. Now oil burning is replaced with hot water from the Gothenburg district heating system.

On prospects for the European market, Jonas Cognell, programme manager at the Celsius project, says: ‘We can see that there is some fresh movement, and new markets opening up. I think 2015 is the beginning of a breakthrough – but to see investments and decisions take place, we’re probably talking about a three- to five-year timeframe.’


Clare Taylor is Editor at ManagEnergy
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Source: COSPP