By Martin B. Petersen, Export Sales Manager, ABB, and Board Member of DBDH The COLUMN
Interfaces between supplier and consumer is normally an issue that we do not discuss that often, even though this is the main issue for all district energy companies in their everyday life. The main reason is, that across the world the interface between producer, distributor and consumer of district energy is different. Some places the district energy company controls the secondary side and some places they don’t. In some countries there is no split between production and distribution and others, like in Denmark, it is clearly separated. However, as the demand keeps rising for increased energy efficiency in the district energy market and keeps prices low, the interaction with the end consumer is inevitable. At the end of the day, everything starts at the consumer. We need to understand our consumer’s demands and installations to deliver sufficient heating or cooling. But this is not enough, as consumption patterns and simple awareness of how heating or cooling is consumed will affect the consumption of the individual as well as the overall economy and efficiency of the district energy company. Besides the economic benefits for consumer and the district energy company, communication between distributor and consumer brings along environmental benefits by lower overall consumption and energy use at distribution level as well as increases the service level felt from the consumer. It is not every day that we as consumers are encouraged to lower our bills, but this is actually the fact across many district energy networks, and especially in Frederiksberg, Denmark as you will learn inside this issue of HOT|COOL.
The clear interface between distributor and customers is slowly being eroded as the district energy companies educate its customers and the industry delivers ever more sophisticated products to themarket that embrace the new possibilities for communicating. A new visualization platform in the form of phones, tablets and PC’s have emerged and makes communication and education of consumers easier and much more interactive. But, how far can you go and how much would you like to involve the customer? The threat is that extensive information and choices will decrease the involvement of the customer as heating is not on top of their agenda. As you will read in this issue, this is on the minds of both the district energy companies and the industry that supplies the solutions that can measure and visualize the customer’s consumption and help the companies’ communication with its customers. At the end of the day a lower - and better consumption of heating and cooling that will increase the difference between supply and return temperature, will result in a more competitive district energy market where the consumer can see the benefit of its behavior on prices and the environment. We are constantly looking at increasing the efficiency of the production and distribution, now the time has come to involve the consumers to go the extra mile to make district energy even more attractive to consumers and politicians alike. Increasing the awareness of what district energy is really about, by eroding the interface, could maybe be the one thing that makes district energy more than “just” pipes in the ground.
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