FOCUS DIGITALI- SATION
By Steen Schelle Jensen, Head of Product Management – Heat/Cooling Solutions, Kamstrup
Everyone talks about the potential of digitalisation, but it only creates actual value when prompting concrete changes in the way a utility produces and distributes district heating – changes that can be measured in money terms. Quantifying that value is therefore the objective of a close cooperation between Danish utility AffaldVarme Aarhus and Kamstrup on data-driven optimisation.
Everyone talks about the potential of digitalisation, but it only creates actual value when prompting concrete changes in the way a utility produces and distributes district heating – changes that can be measured in money terms. Quantifying that value is therefore the objective of a close cooperation between Danish utility AffaldVarme Aarhus and Kamstrup on data-driven optimisation. In many industries, digitalisation is primarily perceived as a means to make life easier and smarter for the consumer – and district heating is no exception. The consumer side remains a very important part of district heating especially because its continued competitiveness and expansion relies on a broad acceptance of its premise: forgoing a free choice of supplier in exchange for a clean, sustainable and highly efficient heat source as well as being part of a good and shared story. However, digitalisation is much more than new customer services or consumer apps, which is often what comes to mind when discussing digitalised district heating. Digital technologies hold the potential to make the entire energy system both more efficient, reliable and intelligent – and the digital movement is well underway. This is illustrated in the Digital Roadmap for District Heating & Cooling recently published by Euroheat and Power’s DHC+ Technology Platform describing the status quo, potential and key barriers for digitalisation on six different levels: Production, distribution, building, consumption, design and planning as well as sector coupling.
The roadmap provides a comprehensive overview and nuanced insight into digitalisation as a potentially transformative force and its enormous impact on the district heating industry. FIRST THINGS FIRST: PRODUCTION AND DISTRIBUTION While all levels in the DHC+ roadmap are important, it makes best sense to start out where digitalisation can generate the most value: production and distribution. First of all, a large part of a utility’s finances are tied up in these two areas as operational costs as well as very long-term investments. In addition, the unique nature of district heating is characterised by the fact that all parts of the system are so closely linked, which means that especially the production and distribution are highly influenced by consumer behaviour and the energy performance of buildings. For example, because of the time it takes to move district heating to where it is needed, it has to be produced several hours before it is actually used. Energy suppliers therefore need detailed knowledge about consumer needs and consumption patterns to perform accurate forecasts. Also, return temperatures that are too high will typically be the result of faulty or misadjusted substations or end-user behaviour causing inefficient operations and excessive heat loss.
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