by Linda Bertelsen
Digital Binare Code on Data. Data 4.0

HEATman is leading the digital agenda for the district heating sector. HEATman is a cooperation between private and public partners. The goal is an integrated and adaptable product platform for district heating companies. This open IT platform hosts a variety of data and different software tools. By combining these resources, new solutions are developed, and new values are generated. The most promising tool is a cross-system optimisation for a data-intelligent holistic control.

By Alfred Heller, Civil engineer, PhD, Chief Consulting Engineer, NIRAS A/S

A digital Swiss Army Knife for District Heating

HEATman is a toolbox and Swiss Army Knife for district heating organisations. This knife consists of simple tools by single providers and advanced solutions that combine individual tools from different providers into a standard service.

Enabling the monitoring of technical components is an example of a simple tool. More advanced are the standardized data collection solutions that open the internal IT of district heating plants to a secure cloud. At this moment, external services can support the organisation and develop advanced solutions.

The most advanced tool is probably the solution combining several individual software that optimize each part of the overall district heating system. This cross-system intelligence is further refined by models based on data collected across the whole system.

Solutions and tools from HEATman:

  • Digitalization of district heating
    o and technical components
  • Cloudification
  • Cross-system optimization
  • Data-intelligent optimization methodology
  • Building integration approaches
  • District heating – electricity-marked models and bidding tool
  • IoT and metering for district heating
  • Short- and long-term planning
  • Screening of potential districts
  • Baselining of existing DH

Project partners

  • NIRAS (project leader)
  • Dansk Fjernvarme
  • Brønderslev Forsyning
  • Trefor Varme
  • Hillerød Varme
  • Danfoss
  • Logstor
  • Kamstrup
  • EMD International
  • Neogrid Technologies
  • NorthQ
  • Leanheat
  • Technical University of Denmark
  • Aarhus University

About HEATman

The lead consultant company, NIRAS, initiated another project for the water utility sector called LEAKman (LEAKman). A few partners involved in this project saw similarities between the water and district heating sectors.

Several solutions were made ready for implementation in a parallel series of research-based innovation projects. The solutions originate mainly from CITIES, Smart Cities Accelerator, and Energy Lab Nordhavn. HEATman will take this opportunity to implement an extensive backlog of results from these former research projects.

The Technical University of Denmark and the Aarhus University will carry out missing research pieces in their everyday activities.

The HEATman project can celebrate its 1st anniversary with support from The Innovation Fund of Denmark [1]. The Project consortium has 20 entities, including private companies, public entities, universities, and the Danish District Heating Association. These partners bring their skills from every angle of district heating, cooperation, technology, data, research, and business.

From best practice to next-generation digital district heating

Three district heating companies, Bronderslev Forsyning, Hillerod Varme, and Trefor, enable the collection of experience and build “living labs” for the HEATman developments. To document the impact of HEATman, a baseline was established in autumn 2019 for the three plants.

After installing state-of-the-art tools and software, a second performance is collected to be compared with the baseline. At this moment, the project can document the overall impact of all improvements for the three living labs at the end of the project.

During 2019, the three living labs were prepared to host the activities in HEATman. In this, all digital components and methods at the plants were revised and adjusted, leading to savings in unnecessary licenses and software, more consolidated data streams, and other improvements. This was one digital service that was not expected to be valuable. NIRAS will promote this service under the term “consolidation.”

The first new HEATman solutions will already be visible in 2020. More advanced solutions will be developed during 2020 and 2021 to be demonstrated during winter 2021. Hence, mature advanced solutions will be promoted during 2022, when the innovation project supported by the Innovation Fund Denmark will end in February 2022.

The vital platforms

The first vital platform is a private-public partnership that aims to jointly promote and brand “HEATman” and its products for the district energy sector.

The second platform is a cloud that facilitates cooperation with essential digital services such as data collection, sharing, and standardization. This common digital resource is also the workbench on which the tools are developed, evaluated, and demonstrated.

In a first setup and existing cloud platform from a research and innovation project, CITIES is applied to show proof of concepts. Mature solutions will be promoted on a commercial cloud setup under the lead of the partner NorthQ.

HEATman as a dynamic product and service platform

The HEATman toolbox/platform enables a wide variety of tools and services. A simple tool involves a single service by a single provider. Due to standardization, such tools can be from different providers. HEATman enables the shift of solutions within the same framework and enables competing sub-solutions.

An example is a forecast for the demand that very different services can provide, statistical lookups in local or national building databases, and advanced commercial software solutions by the company ENFOR. The HEATman concept will enable the replacement of solutions within the same platform.

Another example of a single-component service that will be implemented in the HEATman project is integrating the “Smart Energy System.” At first, such a solution will be based on existing software by the company EMD International. This package, EnergyPro, models and optimizes the operation of various thermal production systems. Based on EnergyPro, the package EnergyTrade by the same company enables betting on the electric markets.

A complete optimization tool across the DH network and production

Some of the partners in the HEATman project were cooperating with the CITIES project. Here, the first experiences were harvested on the methodology that could be applied for a system-wide optimization. This increased the chance that the HEATman project would be successful.

All relevant tools are installed in the “state of art” version on which the HEATman approach and improvements will be based. For leakage detection, two very different approaches are tested.

  1. The product “Heat Intelligence” from Kamstrup utilizes the user demand data from their smart meters to analyze possible leakages within the DH system.
  2. Logstor is the provider of district heating pipes and connects a wire through the network that enables the system to find leakage through their solution, “LOGSTOR Detect.”

The two systems will be installed at the three living labs, and improvements will be applied, partly by combining their abilities. The consultant company NIRAS will add their solutions and experiences from the abovementioned water platform LEAKman.

All products are installed in the three partner district heating plants, Bronderslev Forsyning, Hillerod Varme, and TREFOR, and will be in operation from spring 2020 – to be evaluated ultimo this year by the Danish District Heating Association (DDHA).

A smart platform adjusted for future requirements and sustainability

HEATman takes a significant leap into the future of supporting district heating to meet future trends and demands. Based on the state-of-the-art tools mentioned above, we will work through 2020 to find advanced and holistic solutions within the project. The outcome of the efforts is considerable energy and economic savings for the DH companies.

The holistic approach of cross-system optimization is mainly expected to drive these savings. The implementation is planned in two to three stages:

  1. A simple communication approach where the involved software share information and the common “intelligence” utilizes basic logic assumptions. Here, the common cloud infrastructure and standard communication will enable this effort.
  2. In a more advanced version, the cross-component optimization will be done automatically and probably based on algorithmic approaches. This is a development project headed by the Technical University of Denmark.
  3. In a parallel effort, big data will be applied to improve the involved component models. During 2020, the use of remote-read e-meters will be mandatory. With these extensive data, we can implement the results from other research projects, especially the CITIES project.

The communication and cloud infrastructure will be the common infrastructure to be adjusted to carry the standard tools and services in a “Proof of Concept” version. At this moment, the HEATman concept can be developed fast and flexibly. A mature market-ready version will evolve in a parallel effort.

Digitization of industrial components

Efforts are included to digitize industrial components to increase the impact of HEATman. It is a prerequisite of HEATman that the involved components can be monitored, communicated digitally, and controlled remotely. Currently, the following components are enabled for the HEATman concept:

  1. heating units by Danfoss
  2. pumps provider DESMI
  3. monitoring equipment by the district heating pipe producer LOGSTOR
  4. an MPC controller under development at the Aarhus University


The three district heating cases are adjusting their digital tools and improving their abilities. At the same time, the existing communication and ICT solutions are evaluated and improved through simplification, standardization, and improvements. It will be the key performance indicator for evaluating the project and what improvements will be harvested.

The Danish District Heating Association provides a methodology for screening the feasibility of new areas for district heating and extension areas for the sector. Digital lookups in public databases and other digital methods will play a central role in this.

For long-term planning, the Technical University of Denmark aims to improve the software tool Balmorel, and EMD International is refining its planning software, EnergyPro, as a part of the HEATman project.

Together with the Danish District Heating Association and the other partners, NIRAS will lead the activities that evaluate the values of the HEATman concept and consider the promotion of district heating plants on the international market.

In February 2022, we will finalize the project. We expect to have an open holistic integration platform for both the district heating and cooling sectors that decisively simplifies the daily load for system operators. The whole idea with HEATman is to develop an intelligent IT tool that secures energy savings for DHC companies and creates the possibility of delivering sustainable energy worldwide.



[1] The Innovation Fund of Denmark supports HEATman through an Industry 4.0 grant to the project “HEAT 4.0 – digitally supported smart district heating”, J.no. 8090-00046B with € 3,3m and a total budget of € 5m.

For more information please contact: Alfred Heller, AHR@niras.dk

Meet the author

Alfred Heller
Civil engineer, PhD, Chief Consulting Engineer, NIRAS A/S
“HEATman – a smart digital toolbox for district heating” was published in Hot Cool, edition no. 1/2020. You can download the article here:
HEATman – a smart digital toolbox for district heating was published in Hot Cool, edition no. 1, 2020