Consequently, the most sustainable option, or the most cost-efficient solution is often missed. It also prevents public authorities from building up the capacity to perform sustainable energy planning tasks more efficiently themselves and fails to consider the full range of possible district heating networks in a given area. So, what if there were a way to identify the most feasible and the environmentally and economically desirable option out of these hundreds of possible ones, all via a simple search, based on each district’s key conditions and case-specific requirements? And what if there were a simple online process for identifying which buildings are included, where the pipes are routed, and – often forgotten by planners – what the impact of the new network on residents is? THERMOS (thermal energy resource modelling and optimi- sation system) has been developed as a research and innovation action within the EU H2020 Program. It included the participation of eight European cities (Islington Borough Council in London, Warsaw, Jelgava, Granollers, Cascais, Berlin, Alba Iulia and London) and key sustainable energy experts and planning organizations across Europe. The THERMOS project has developed energy system maps and modelling tools for identifying the best heat-network options in cities, through a user-friendly, freely available software.
Alis-Daniela Torres, expert for sustainable energy at ICLEI Europe, introducing THERMOS to training participants in Jelgava, Latvia. Photo: ICLEI Europe.
The THERMOS software can help energy planners who: 1) Want to identify optimal expansion of an existing district heating network. 2) Have a heat source and want to identify an optimal district heating network and local heat demand to take advantage of it. 3) Have demands and heat source options and are looking for the best way to match up the two. 4) Wish to compare two different district heating networks, or to compare a network with a non-networked heating system. Martin Holley, who works for the Centre for Sustainable Energy, one of the project partners, comments that: “We believe that THERMOS will reduce planning costs and development time and bring the benefits of district heat networks to more people, sooner. Of course, this won’t make the actual building of district heating networks cheaper or quicker, but it should dramatically accelerate the pace and reduce the cost of identifying the most promising networks in a given area and help ensure that the systems that do go ahead are the right ones.” As such, the software offers features that could be key to unlocking the huge potential of district heating and cooling networks and help access the benefits from an energy system that offers the much-needed low carbon and cost-efficient energy supplies of the future.
The alpha version of the software successfully passed its stress- test this spring and offers local authorities address-level data for the optimised expansion of an existing system, the planning of an entirely new system, or assessing the performance of specific networks or non-networked solutions via direct comparison. It can produce figures according to each user’s criteria for what constitutes an optimized solution, for example CO2 emissions, local energy costs, or investment budget.
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