Due to its reliance on renewable energy sources, district heating is becoming a preferred energy saving solution. One of the biggest challenges, however, is convincing homeowners of the long-term value of retrofitting buildings to accommodate the smart solution
From the frosty reaches of Umeå in eastern Sweden to the rolling hills of San Sebastian in Spain’s Basque Country, European cities have one refrain on their minds as the cold sets in: winter is coming and homes must be heated in a way that allows the EU to reach its goal of reducing energy consumption by 20% by the year 2020. District heating is quickly cementing itself as a preferred method to do so, as it relies on renewable energy sources and decreases greenhouse gas emissions.
Long and bitter Scandinavian winters, where buildings must be heated eight or nine months of the year, spurred the beginning of district heating in Sweden in the 1940s. According to the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, it has gone from almost exclusively relying on fossil fuels to being 90% powered by renewable and recycled heat in 2017.
Today, Stockholm contains 2,800 km of underground pipes connecting to more than 10,000 buildings, says Erik Rylander from Fortum, energy company active in Nordic and Baltic countries. “As long as you have a water based heating circuit in your building (which basically all bigger buildings in Sweden have) the connection is easy,” he explains. “A heat exchanger is placed in the basement which connects the district heating system to the building’s heating system.” The system uses biofuels - wood chips, wood pellets and bio oil - as well as household waste and recovered heat from the city’s data centers and industries. It also draws energy from the sea using large heat pumps, Rylander adds.
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21 December 2017
This project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 646511