Municipal heat planning 2.0 – digital and future-proof
In order to limit the impact of climate change, buildings, in particular, will have to make a greater contribution towards reducing emissions. Doing so will require holistic planning and intelligent solutions. Digitalisation – including smart data management and artificial intelligence – offers opportunities that are still used far too rarely. Christian Freericks, Tobias Nusser
In 2018, 30 per cent of total emissions came directly or indirectly from buildings. Even though the building sector has cut greenhouse gas emissions nearly in half since 1990, one thing is clear: there will be no energy transformation without a heating transformation.
In order to achieve net greenhouse gas neutrality by 2045, the building sector must reduce its emissions by 45 per cent by 2030, to 67 million tons of CO2 equivalent – a Herculean task that calls for new approaches.
Heating is a key issue
More than half of total energy consumption is caused by heating applications. In private households this figure is 90 per cent. The largest share stems from heating rooms and providing hot water. In many cases, outdated and inefficient heating systems are still being used. Replacing such systems could result in enormous reductions of CO2.
In addition to the condition of the building shell as it relates to energy consumption, the efficiency of the heating system and the choice of energy source play a significant role in reducing the building’s emissions. Municipalities are central in providing incentives for improvements to existing buildings and ensuring the highest possible standard of new construction. This may take the form of providing information and answering questions as part of energy consulting, offering financial subsidies to promote renewable energies or passing planning laws related to urban land use development.
Integrated planning is essential
A holistic planning approach is necessary to ensure the heating transformation is a major success. This is because climate neutrality requires a complete transformation of current energy systems. Strategic heat planning at the municipal level provides an opportunity to analyse and assess the building infrastructure in cities and towns in a holistic manner. Both the various parts of the energy system and their connections as well as their complex interaction with external variables, such as socio-demographic trends and land use, must be modelled.
Intelligent digital systems allow municipalities to manage these complex tasks. Combining and processing data make it possible to illuminate heat sinks while simultaneously identifying heat sources in the commercial, industrial and agricultural sectors in the form of process waste heat, among other things. Recording the spatial and quantifiable renewable heating potential is especially important. An in-depth engineering analysis forms the basis for successful implementation of the measures. Connecting this information with data related to network infrastructures, energy storage and mobility applications enables the gradual formation of a holistic view, which is necessary for a successful and cost-effective heating transformation.
Learning from neighbours
Denmark is considered the prime example of successful municipal heat planning. But it is also worth taking a look at Switzerland to learn about successful heat planning. In Switzerland, such planning is governed at the cantonal level through spatial energy planning. Municipalities receive support for such efforts from the cantons and the federal government. For example, the canton of Zurich provides energy data via its GIS Browser that can be used for heat planning. The problem: The expense of processing this data manually is too great for many municipalities, and as a result the energy plans are often static and remain unchanged for 15 years.
The municipality of Regensdorf in the canton of Zurich is going in a different direction. It has decided to act as a pilot municipality for the Community Energy Platform (Gemeinde-Energieplattform), which was developed jointly by energy provider Energie 360° and enersis. The platform makes it possible to visualise building-related energy data and enables dynamic planning that is always up-to-date and future-oriented. As a result, Regensdorf already has a handle on the heating transformation.
Situation in Germany
The first German state to require its cities and towns to draft a municipal heating plan and has developed specific requirements in this regard is Baden-Württemberg. The state energy agency Klimaschutz- und Energieagentur Baden-Württemberg (KEA-BW) provides support to all municipalities in the state through, among other things, its “Municipal Heat Planning” guidelines, which was developed in conjunction with the EGS plan engineering firm. Dr Max Peters, Head of the Heating Transformation Competency Centre at KEA-BW, views this as a “strategic roadmap that provides the necessary focus for the energy transformation” and he emphasises how important it is to involve all stakeholders early on and to ensure digital networking.
The state of Schleswig-Holstein’s Energy Transformation and Climate Protection Act (Energiewende- und Klimaschutzgesetz Schleswig-Holstein, – EWKG) provides for municipal heat planning. While it has so far been voluntary, it will, following the first draft of the EWKG amendment, be compulsory for larger municipalities in future. Hamburg’s Climate Protection Act also requires the development of heat planning. However, both states lag behind Baden-Württemberg in terms of detailed planning.
In addition, at the federal level the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy (Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und Energie – BMWi) looks to establish municipal heat planning as the foundation of the country’s climate protection legislation. To this end, a new “Heating Transformation Competency Centre” is to be built up in Halle an der Saale.
Digitalisation and networking are key
Data is necessary for integrated and holistic heat planning to be successful. Baden-Württemberg’s Climate Protection Act (Klimaschutzgesetz Baden-Württemberg – KSG BW) authorises municipalities to collect the relevant data (Article 7e KSG BW), but this is not enough. Efficient heat planning requires electronic data. As companies must use online reporting processes, like IDEV and .CORE, as part of their obligation to provide statistical information, this also seems appropriate for heat planning in order to minimise any additional expenses.
At the state level, an energy data registry along the lines of the Swiss model could be set up that makes it possible to plan at various regional levels using the appropriate software. Clustering districts with similar heat production, distribution and consumption structures can help to derive measures that can be used in multiple communities. This will result in a continuous exchange of knowledge and enable the automatic identification of best practices. Recording data from municipal heat planning centrally can help make the overarching political goal of a strategic and future-oriented energy plan a reality at the state level.
An investment in the future
Intelligent heat planning that includes all stakeholders will serve as the foundation of an affordable, CO2-free and secure heat supply in the future. The initial expense of setting up such a smart system will soon pay itself off.
In economic terms, it will be possible to avoid or eliminate inefficiencies resulting from redundant infrastructures. Higher utilisation of the supply lines that are actually required will also result in lower usage charges for consumers. There will also be advantages from a business perspective thanks to greater planning and investment reliability and fewer stranded assets.
Cities and towns should also view municipal heat planning as less of a burdensome task that must be carried out and more of an opportunity to invest in the future. While the transformation of our energy system will result in considerable costs, thorough heat planning will enable economically optimised conceptual approaches to achieving climate goals. Furthermore, the costs of climate change, such as damage from flooding, will be reduced in the medium to long term. Under certain circumstances, municipalities will also be able to request grants, such as the KfW 432 (energy-optimised urban refurbishments) from the Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW)or partial state funding.
A successful municipal heating transformation will make a substantial contribution towards creating attractive and liveable communities for all citizens. Eventually, it will also attract more people and high income tax revenues.
Municipal heat planning is the map to this future and there is no doubt that such planning will be digital and networked.
Published in the 06/2021 edition of Gebäude-Energieberater. To the article
Elisabeth Huber Tobias Nusser
Head of Sales & Markets Deputy Head of Energy Concept