HOT|COOL NO.2/2021 - "Economics, Finance & Money"

– The Innovation Boost on District Heating Systems in The Netherlands

By: Frits Verheij , Senior consultant energy transition at TNO, and Program Director of WarmingUP

A large consortium has joined forces in a Dutch Innovation Plan 2020-2022 The Dutch Climate Agreement targets 1.5 million fossil-free – ‘natural gas free’ – houses and other buildings in 2030. That’s about 20% of the total existing stock. Half of these are expected to be connected to a district heating (DH) system. The result would be a growth from 340,000 houses end of 2018 to more than a million in 2030. How to get there? Three challenges drive the need for innovation Three challenges for DH in The Netherlands have been driving the development of the Innovation Plan WarmingUP. Firstly, upscaling to 80,000 houses (weq) annually in 2025, and 1.2 million in 2030. This is a big challenge for the heating industry and others involved in this transition in the built environment. The second challenge is to develop renewable heat. The target is a CO2 emission level of 18.9 kg/GJ, 70% lower than the average emission of heat boilers in 2018. Today’s level is about 50% lower . The third and last challenge is cost reduction to enable a business case at a larger number of locations in The Netherlands. This is translated into an annual improvement of 1.5% this decade. Starting conditions for WarmingUP To tackle this combination of challenges requires a joint effort of all key players in DH systems. As a result of this starting condition, a unique consortium has been composed during the first half of 2019; see next section. The challenges also made clear that a systemic approach for the Innovation Plan WarmingUP is needed. It should fulfil the strategies, targets and interests of district heating companies, developers and operators of renewable heat sources, municipalities, grid operators, construction industries, and others involved. The results of the research and knowledge development should be such that these can be implemented in the daily activities of these organisations as of 2023 at the latest.

a 3-years innovation plan combining their innovation agendas and ambitions. A growing number of supporting partners – 18 at present – have joined this consortium providing specific expertise, experience, data, knowledge dissemination platforms and/or a financial contribution. Experts of all participants are actively involved in the execution of the innovation plan for various reasons. Participants get a better understanding of each other’s need, practical experiences provide input and guidance to the research, and the R&D is focused on practical use. Although the advantages are clear, cooperation needs time, respect for each other’s views, and willingness to create joined solutions that might differ from your preferences.

The ecosystem of WarmingUP comprises 38 participants and 18 supporting partners, covering the full chain of district heating in The Netherlands. Goals Of course, you need to have consumers of DH at short distances from renewable heat sources. Besides, DH systems applying renewable sources should be technically feasible, financially viable, and societally desirable or at least acceptable. Therefore, the innovation plan is built in six coherent themes covering heating grids and system integration, sustainable heat sources, heat storage, and the societal aspects of district heating. These themes comprise 32 projects.

A very diverse group of private companies, public organisations, and research institutes – 38 participants in total – has developed

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