Out with gas and prepare for a low-carbon heat system There is a pressing need to change how we heat our homes around Europe and the world. A new urgency has arrived with the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent energy price crisis. Natural gas, oil, coal, wood pellets, and most other combustible fuels are now expensive and scarce resources. The price of natural gas, the single most used fuel for heat supply, is now at a point that threatens to bankrupt families or forces them to freeze during winter. This should be seen in combination with the challeng- es the energy and heating sector has been struggling with for years. Climate change is probably the single largest threat to our society, but it is also a long-term and a not so tangible challenge to face. Air pollution is a significant threat to the health and well-being in some countries. The biodiversity crisis puts new per- spectives on the sustainability of using biomass for heat supply. Energy poverty has long been a subject in some countries, while in others, for example, Den- mark, it is a new challenge that a portion of the popu- lation struggle with paying their energy bills. There are many reasons to switch from old dirty boil- ers to clean heating. In dense urban areas, district heating has the potential to solve many of the chal- lenges mentioned above. By switching from individu- al heat supply in single buildings to collective heating, it becomes possible to exploit hard-to-reach but read- ily available heat resources: excess heat from industry, data centers or power plans, geothermal resources, large-scale heat pumps, or large-scale solar thermal. I am sure this is known to many of the readers of this magazine – so how to actually implement these large- scale infrastructures? Heat supply is intertwined with many other agendas I can name many good reasons why district heating could be an option for heat supply in the future. But

“the many actors out there” have to make the deci- sions: municipalities, citizens, energy companies, util- ities, industries with excess heat, etc. One question they all will ask is ”what’s in it for me?”. The answer can be many different things: cheap heat and clean air for the citizens, clean heat supply in the municipality, extra income for an excess heat supplier, jobs, and investments in the area. These reasons are multiple, context-dependent, and always up for ne- gotiation. Just look at how fast the discourse around fossil fuels, especially natural gas, has changed from last year to today: last year, the need for getting rid of fossil fuels was based on climate change, and today it is a question of security of supply. Suddenly heat sup- ply is a matter of national security, followed by new challenges and opportunities. Therefore, there is not just one good reason to build district heating systems: it depends on the many local conditions and actors. And the planner who wishes to implement district heating must consider and depart from these specific conditions. But the planner must also make the different ends meet because district heating is one single infrastructure, and there needs to be agreement about the use, investment, and ben- efits of district heating among the many users and producers. The district heating plan can create a shared understanding of a complicated topic How can these many different actors then agree on investing in a single large and collective system? The usual response by engineers and energy planners is to make a plan. A plan that forecasts future develop- ments, how the district heating system would op- erate under certain conditions, compares it to oth- er types of supply and highlights different benefits. These benefits will usually include the various rea- sons why a district heating system should be built: If the climate is a major driver, then CO2 emissions could be a good indicator. If energy poverty is in fo-

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