What is the specific problem?
Currently, the EU produces more waste heat than the heat demand of its entire building stock. Thus, waste or secondary heat source could displace a significant amount of the primary energy demand in cities, and consequently form an essential component of a cost-effective energy transition.
To decarbonise and create greater resilience in district heat networks, these networks need to be able to easily recover a diverse range of waste or secondary heat sources within their city and its environs. This is essential as cities implement their long-term strategy for the decarbonisation and expansion of their heat networks. At present, this is difficult for a number of reasons. Firstly, due to the inconsistent implementation of relevant Directives, including the Renewable and Energy Efficiency Directives. Secondly, the accessibility and financial value of waste heat, to engage with and persuade the producers of waste heat to work with heat network operators to make their waste heat readily available to the heat network.
As an example, Article 14 of the Energy Efficiency Directive 2012/27/EU is designed to guarantee that waste heat from power generation and industry is utilised for space heating whenever practically and financially viable. Despite the best intentions of this Directive, very little of the waste heat potential of these sources are currently being used in heat networks in Europe.
What action is needed?
There needs to be a presumption created around the active utilisation of both existing and new waste heat sources that actively supports the incorporation of waste heat into existing and future heat networks. The barriers to its limited use need to be investigated, from both a heat network operator and waste heat producer’s perspectives. Solutions need to be produced in light of these barriers that would make it easier for heat network operators to access and use available waste heat sources. Additionally, incentives must be created that would actively encourage organisations that produce waste heat to make it readily available to heat network operators.
The Action would be to develop a Position Paper setting out a suite of solutions. The solutions would largely be responses to barriers identified through consultation and workshops with heat network operators and waste heat producers. Such solutions would make use of existing policy and regulatory levers, whilst suggesting new ideas, policies and viable financial incentives that would be promoted to EU, national, and local governments.
The aim would be to simultaneously enable more comprehensive and consistent implementation of elements of the Clean Energy Package that relate to waste heat and heat networks; whilst developing consensus and support between these stakeholders in order to maximise the amount of waste heat that is utilised in heating systems across the EU.
---> As an example: The possible explanation for the meagre outcome of Article 14 is the framing and subsequent implementation by the Member States. The Article comes into effect when a new plant or industrial facility of some sort is being planned. In this situation, the investor and developer must assess whether it would be economically and practically feasible to utilise any waste heat or install a CHP unit, both of which would require building a heat network.
This creates a significant additional capital cost for the project. Therefore, in most cases, it is not likely that investing in waste heat utilisation purely for the facility will be deemed profitable. At least not when assessed as a sole investment, without assuming that the heat network will grow and allow other potential producers of waste heat to supply into the system.
On the other hand, if the assessment was made from an existing or future heat network’s perspective, with a broader scope - encompassing a larger geographical area and so the anticipated development of that area over time – then it makes more sense to build a new or extending an existing heat network in that area.
This clearly lies beyond the responsibility, capacity and interest of the original investor or developer of the facility and should actually be a strategic decision for the heat network operator. As an example, the municipality could be the main actor in such a process, and this would link into city-wide energy master-planning.
Therefore, the strategic role of developing district heat networks and incorporating waste heat into them should also be an integral part of the city energy master-planning process. This strategic approach will then be complemented by the very important need for catalysing the process by which heat network operators are able to engage with the producers of waste heat. Ultimately, through such negotiations, access to low and zero carbon waste heat sources for their heat network will be secured.
How to implement the action?
Short Term: Establish a Working Group of stakeholders from across the sector to look at the barriers to accessing and utilising waste heat in cities. This Working Group will then run a number of workshops and engagement sessions with both heat network operators and waste heat producers. This is to understand the real and perceived barriers to using waste heat in district heating networks. The Working Group will then use this intelligence to develop a Position Paper that sets out a range of recommendations for how these barriers could be addressed for the mutual benefit of the heat network operator, the waste heat producer and the associated energy system.
In parallel, Action 3 on Energy Masterplanning would work with this Working Group to ensure that the opportunities provided by waste heat for contributing to the decarbonisation of heat are realised. Standards should be developed for assessing waste heat potential in city planning and ensuring that it is undertaken.
Long Term: This component of city planning may need to be prescribed in national legislation. If so, these can be recommended for future Actions if the Partnership continues to operate and grow. Experience and knowledge of this can be drawn from the Member States, cities and EU projects such as Celsius.
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