The IEA enables innovation through a wide range of international Energy Technology Initiatives, or ETIs1. Through the ETIs, more than 6,000 experts from over 50 countries work together to accelerate advances in energy technologies.
The fundamental idea of district heating and cooling (DHC) is simple: connect multiple energy consumers to cost-effective, environmentally optimal heat sources through a piping network. Sources of the heat could include combined heat and power plants, biomass or biomass/coal co-firing, capturing geothermal heat and natural sources of heating and cooling, or recuperating industrial waste heat. Policies and measures to promote DHC include financial and fiscal support, utility supply obligations, local infrastructure and heat planning, emissions trading, interconnection measures and capacity building.
The Implementing Agreement on District Heating and Cooling including Combined Heat and Power (DHC IA) examines district heating, cooling and power; energy efficient supply, notably combined heat and power (CHP); cost reductions through improved heating pipes and substations; efficient end-use through efficient customer connections and demand side management; and reducing the gap between supply and demand through thermal storage and system optimisation. There are currently nine Contracting Parties.
The overall objective of one recent DHC IA study, Policies and Barriers for District Heating and Cooling outside European Countries, was to identify and review key institutional barriers to DHC development and review best practice in 13 countries (Canada, China, Korea, Russia, the United States and selected European neighbouring countries). In China and Russia, some 200 million people are served by DHC systems.
The District Heating Technology Platform supported by the European Commission addressed these issues for 14 European countries. Working together, the two studies covered 95% of DHC networks worldwide.
Case studies for each country focussed on the current situation, the policy framework, as well as highlighting barriers to further deployment. Cross-country comparisons and analysis highlighted best practice in sustainable development of DHC systems.
Another DHC IA study, District Heating for Energy Efficient Building Areas, aims to understand cost effectiveness of installations, particularly as district heating networks are very location- and case-specific. In northern Europe, district heating networks reach 80% to 90% of central urban dwellers where heat demand is highest. Yet only 10% to 15% of outlying areas (e.g. suburban communities with a majority of single-family dwellings) are connected to DHC systems as they were not previously considered to be economical.
DHC system installation is considered to be cost effective when it achieves 1 Megawatt hour (MWh) per metre per year (MWh/m/yr). This ‘benchmark’ is based on DHC systems for multi-family dwellings located in densely-populated urban areas. The study found that installing DHC systems can also be cost-effective in outlying areas, despite the lower heat demand density of 0.5 MWh/m/yr. In outlying areas there are far fewer design and construction constraints related to existing infrastructure (telecommunications or sewage systems) and lengthy approval processes. In addition, the piping design for low heat density areas is simpler and can be made from lighter, cheaper materials.
* Photo courtesy of Kari Sipila.
For more information: www.iea-dhc.org
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