North Sea is Dutch. The development of large wind farms at sea is ongoing. It is expected to significantly increase the share of renewables in the coming years. Extensive infrastructure will have to be built to connect produc tion to consumers all over the country. While homes can be heated with electricity, current electrical networks lack capac- ity. Measured in power for heating, natural gas networks, and connections capacity is at least ten times larger. The transition
are not enough heat sources to replace natural gas, and the renewable content is debatable. Burning biomass (wood) was heavily subsidized initially but now faces increasing opposition and decreasing subsidies. Clearly, alternative renewable ther- mal sources need to be developed. Current market model for district heating There is another reason why new development in DH is prov- ing particularly difficult: DH is operated as a local monopoly by
from natural gas to electricity cannot be met without signif- icant restructuring and massive expansion of the grids on all voltage levels. The use of heat pumps will considerably reduce the ‘power gap’ between electrical and natural gas infrastruc- ture, but likely not enough. Even without capacity for electrical heating, network operators experience an unprecedented rise in requests for additional capacity and are struggling to meet demand. DH is considered a viable alternative in densely populated ar- eas. Even during the Groningen natural gas epoch, it has seen some success in large-scale urban expansion, that is, for new- ly built housing. Connecting existing housing is much more complex and costly. However, it also has much more potential in volume. The DH networks use traditional, fairly high temperature, large- scale thermal energy sources such as waste incineration and (natural gas-fired) combined cycle cogeneration plants. There
commercial enterprises, in stark contrast with the liberalized markets for electricity and natural gas. There, consumers have learned to use competition and the free choice of a supplier as a weapon against otherwise assured commercial exploitation. It is a common opinion amongst DH customers that they are paying too much. Recent price hikes due to much higher pric- es for natural gas (which serves as price reference) have made things worse and refueled the debate on heating prices. With the current market model, local councils are hesitant to force a monopoly on unwilling citizens. At the same time, it is not attractive for commercial enterprises to make large upfront investments in infrastructure with low and uncertain returns. Circumstances being what they are, the development of DH as an alternative for natural gas is not go- ing well. Until today, DH has rarely been used to help existing natural gas-connected private homes transition to renewable heating sources.
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