DISTRICT HEATING STEPPING STONES – towards a sustainable heat solution Focus on supporting a green transition does not necessarily mean that the only right path is to transition 100% from fossil fuels to renewable energy in one go. Nevertheless, carbon neutrality or CO2-negative emissions is the goal – and there should be a plan to reach it.

By Lars Gullev, Senior Consultant, VEKS

Previous investments in fossil-based production facilities will not be wasted. They can be used as a step or steppingstone towards a green heat supply, as the historical development of the Danish district heating sector confirms. For clarity, the expansion is divided into phases, but the phases can overlap. Today, through careful planning, we can gain early access to introducing sustainable heat sources, thus more rap- idly displacing fossil alternatives. Finally, it demonstrates how Copenhagen has gone through this development – and pro- vides a hint at the next stone. Buildings are individually heated with fossil fuels, such as natural gas. A range of buildings are individually heated with their small boilers using coal, oil, or natural gas as fuel. An alternative to this individual solution is to base the build- ing's heat supply on a common heat center and a district heat- ing network that distributes heat to individual buildings. Ide- ally, this heat center should be based on sustainable biomass, but the next best thing would be a heat center based on fossil fuels.

Transitioning a city from, for example, natural gas to green heat sources is a massive undertaking. This article argues that the goal of CO 2 neutrality is right but that the path to it consists of a series of stepping stones, each contributing to the goal, with cities gradually reducing the use of fossil fuels over time. We must be careful not to let the dream of having the perfect system in a few years hinder us from taking important steps in the right direction as early as tomorrow, bringing us to our goal within the set time frame. The primary goal must and should be to ensure a complete re- duction in CO 2 emissions. This can be achieved by transitioning from fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas to sustainable biomass, solar or wind-based electricity, industrial waste heat, or waste heat from waste incineration plants. A significant and essential first step is to transition smaller individual fossil-based systems to district heating partially based on coal, oil, or natu- ral gas – as a starting point. As mentioned, this article describes that just because you can- not transition to 100% CO 2 -neutral heat production right here and now, it does not mean you should do nothing.

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