HOT|COOL NO. 2/2018 - "40 Years Anniversary"


By Anders Dyrelund, District Heating and Energy Planning Specialist, and Jens Ole Hansen, Global Market Director, Ramboll


Local democratic ownership has been the driver for an innovative and efficient Danish district heating (DH) sector in more than 100 years. The open mindset in the sector searching for the best solution for the end-users and society has stimulated co-operation between public utilities, consumer- owned companies, consultants, contractors and suppliers as well as authorities. This open environment has facilitated innovative solutions, which have given the sector a strong position in the implementation of the ambitious Danish energy policy, namely to be independent of fossil fuels. The innovative technologies, among thempreinsulated pipes and large thermal storage technologies, are now being exported world-wide. THE HISTORY OF POLICY, REGULATION AND OWNERSHIP The first DH plant in Denmark was established in 1903 by Frederiksberg Municipality to deliver steam to a new hospital. The plant was fueled by waste and contributed to reducing the waste problems in the growing city. Since then, the public utilities have been a driver for developing DH in major cities. Being responsible for both heating, electricity and waste, the public utilities could see the advantage of utilising the waste heat from power generation and waste to supply city districts with heat. It started as steam in the city area, but fortunately, the utilities found that further expansion should be based on hot water, which is more cost effective, resilient and efficient. In smaller communities, the building owners adopted the idea of co-operatives from the farmers and established co-operatives for electricity, water and not least DH. Due to growing welfare after the Second World War, individual heaters were replaced by central heating, and many buildings were supplied by the more convenient and cleaner DH. In cities, the efficient combined heat and power (CHP) and waste heat were the drivers. In small communities, it was the price gap between cheap heavy oil and light oil. The oil crisis in 1973 was a wake-up call for Denmark being almost totally dependent on imported oil. In the first national energy strategy in 1976, DH was identified as one of the corner stones in a new Danish energy policy with the aim to be independent of oil. It was due to its ability to shift fuels and use efficient heat sources. In the Electricity Supply Act in 1976, the Minister got the power to approve all power plants, which have ever since been CHP plants located strategically for the heat market. At the same time, the power utilities controlled by municipalities and consumer co-operatives shifted very fast from expensive oil to cheap coal with efficient flue gas cleaning.

The first district heating plant in Denmark in 1903 in Frederiksberg. Today the building is used for sports and cultural events, just next to the office of DBDH.

In 1979, the Heat Planning Committee made recommendations for how to reduce the dependency on oil. They included much more DH from CHP plants and waste heat in the densely urban areas, including large heat transmission systems. But also a completely new natural gas infrastructure, supplied from new Danish gas fields, to supply heat in the less densely urban areas and to replace heavy oil in the district heating plants. The Heat Supply Act from 1979 gave the local authorities the responsibility for heat supply planning and provided tools for implementing the plans for DH and gas in a cost-effective way for society and not least to the benefit of the heat consumers. The act stated that all profit in the DH sector must be to the benefit of the consumers, which was already the objective in the municipal and consumer-owned companies. DH was recognized as being an important urban infrastructure like public roads and waste water e.g. with respect to way-of-right for important trenches and an obligation to use the heat supply form that was most cost effective. The administration of the law included an interactive top-down and bottom-up planning process including the Ministry of Energy, the regions and the local administrations in order to integrate the new gas system and agree on the zoning between DH and gas networks. Having established the two natural monopoly infrastructures for DH and gas in 1990, the local authorities got the sole responsibility for planning the most cost-effective further development for society, guided by assumptions submitted by the Energy Authority. In the following 10 years, all DH companies that had gas as the primary fuel established gas-fuelled CHP plants in accordance with the national energy policy. Small DH plants without gas shifted mainly to straw and wood chips, whenever possible.

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