By Christian Broks B. Eng., Branch Manager Eurowater B.V. – Etten-Leur NL
FOCUS EMERGING DH MARKETS
Some notes from the study trip:
Recent developments show a tendency towards lower system temperatures for district heating projects in the Netherlands. Lower system temperatures change the system conditions, which increase the need for asset management and correct water treatment. On October 3rd, “Warmtenetwerk” (The Dutch District Heating Foundation) with about 50 organizations from the Dutch heating sector made a three-day study trip to Denmark, the world leader in sustainable heating networks. Heat companies, producers, universities, branch organizations, as well as the Dutch Ministry of Energy, Utilities and Climate obtained information about the Danish recipe for success. The dialogue was held on how the Dutch heating sector can speed up the energy transition by learning from the Danish experience. Although Dutch district heating exists since 1923, the situation in the Netherlands differs significantly from the Danish situation: District heating in Denmark started to grow seriously in the 1970s when 92 % of the energy consumption was based on imported oil. With the 1973 oil crisis, it became clear how vulnerable and dependent you are when being in such a position. (The current import of biomass is therefore currently up for discussion as Denmark does not want to be dependent on imported energy sources.) In the Netherlands 2,800 billion m3 of natural gas reserves were discovered in the 1960s. Within a short period of time, a nationwide coverage of a gas network was established. Natural gas became the default in the Netherlands for decades, providing cheap, clean and easy energy to the Dutch households. Nowadays, after having used more than 75 % of the domestic gas resources, smaller earthquakes in Dutch development areas are starting to become more severe and frequent. Natural gas from Russia makes the Netherlands more dependent on imported energy sources, and international climate goals force the Dutch to alter their mindset.
• Denmark considers heating as a welfare right just like clean water. The district heating sector is subject to political control, and public monopoly is often seen as better than private monopolies. • Although the price of district heating in Denmark is higher compared to the price in the Netherlands, the perception of the Danish consumers is that it is the most attractive way of heating. This is caused by the fact that existing dwellings have often an easy access and free of charge connection to the grid, and alternatives are more expensive. • Danish district heating companies are allowed to charge their real costs to their customers, where in the Netherlands prices are benchmarked against natural gas prices. • District heating projects in Denmark start with an objective that looks not only at the actual project to realize, but also at the future bigger, socio-economic picture, often with a municipality guarantee that allows competitive financing. The learnings from Denmark are food for thought in the Netherlands where, prior to the financial crisis, district heating projects were initiated when building new houses. During the recent financial crisis, a lot of these initiatives were killed due to the decrease in sales of new houses. Although the housing market in the Netherlands is booming at the moment, newly built houses currently have reduced their energy need, so district heating is a difficult business case for these kinds of projects. Since July 2018, there is, however, no longer an obligation to connect to the natural gas grid. This means that for new building projects, natural gas is no longer the default choice. This leads to a tendency towards lower system temperatures, such as the project “Stadsoevers” in the city of Roosendaal. Surplus heat from the local waste incineration plant is used for heating at a low temperature of 40 °C, in combination with heat pumps producing hot domestic water.
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