Everybody's talking about it: the potential of district heating and cooling in an energy efficient future. But who or what is going to ensure that it is fulfilled? The current revisions of EU energy legislation in the Winther Package is a positive expression of great intentions – and the higher the ambitions, the better the results.
The potential of district energy is not only broadly recognised, but has been positioned by the European Commission as key to reaching our future energy targets. The ongoing revisions of the directives on Renewable Energy (RED), Energy Efficiency (EED) and the Energy Performance of Buildings (EPBD) bode well and represent a step forward in the district energy sector.
In the legislative framework, it is primarily EED articles 9-11 and 14 together with article 7 in the RED, that are to drive the challenge of turning potential and good intentions for district energy into tangible results. If done right, the updated legislation will provide the basis for an energy supply that is efficient, secure and green.
END USERS AT THE CORE
Following the New Deal for Energy Consumers, end users have been placed comfortably at the centre of the Energy Union, and the adaptation of articles 9-11 on metering and billing information is set to further empower European consumers. Increased transparency from clearer consumption information and advanced technology including smart meters, will enable them to better understand and reduce their consumption saving both money and energy.
This is in itself a positive development, but while it may be driven by the end users, transparency from smart metering brings with it major improvement opportunities for utilities as well. These include operations optimisation, enhanced asset management and digitalisation. Ultimately, smart meter data enables smarter decisions.
TURNING ASSESSMENTS INTO ACTION
Article 14 directs member states to carry out a comprehensive assessment of the potential for district energy based on the use of heating and cooling from waste heat and renewable energy sources. Assessments have been completed in most member states but vary in quality and vision due to limited knowledge and experience with district energy in some countries. At best, they outline a blurry starting point rather than provide a clear view of the finishing line. The challenge now is to qualify these assessments based on the extensive research performed by e.g. Heat Roadmap Europe, and to then define specific actions. Here, strong national commitment will be the lever for further development of district energy.
THE END OF THE BEGINNING
In the efforts to sharpen the current proposals, neither member states nor the European Parliament should fear biting off more than they can chew. Research combined with best practice from more experienced nations prove the potential and vital role of district heating as the corner stone of the integrated energy system of the future – so bite away. This is our chance to ensure that today’s legislation gets us to where we need to be.