How to Get District Heating Ready

Through our involvement in the HeatNet NWE project, South Dublin County Council and its energy agency Codema have learned a lot about the steps that need to be taken to develop district heating, and we would like to pass on our learnings to encourage other towns and cities to develop their own schemes. The following steps are suggested for cities and towns looking to develop their own district heating networks.

Undertake heat mapping of demand and heat sources

In order to establish whether district heating could be suitable for your area, you must first undertake heat mapping of your area’s demand and heat sources.

The HeatNet NWE project, which South Dublin County Council was a partner in, has developed a Guide to Mapping Heat Demand, which explains the key points to consider when creating a heat map of your region.

Identify and rank opportunity areas where new district heating networks would be best developed

The main criteria that usually make district heating suitable in an area include higher densities and waste heat from nearby industry.

According to Danish municipalities, areas with a heat density greater than 150 TJ/km² are deemed technically and economically suitable for developing traditional district heating systems. District heating is particularly suited to dense urban areas, such as large cities and towns, which typically have the supply (i.e. an abundance of heat sources) and demand (i.e. a strong customer base) to make a network viable.

Many public buildings are ideal for district heating as they have long operating hours with large space heating and hot water demands.

Include sections in planning policy to support district heating and the utilisation of local waste heat sources

In order to establish whether district heating could be suitable for your area, you must first undertake heat mapping of your area’s demand and heat sources.

For more information on planning policy, a toolkit of spatial policy approaches to securing district heating through new development is available here. This Policy, Legal and Regulatory Review also highlights good practices and provides policy makers with pragmatic recommendations from local practitioners at any level of governance, be it local, regional, national or European.

Carry out a feasibility study for one of the high-ranking opportunity areas to determine its suitability for district heating

You can use the CO2 Emission Calculator (developed by the HeatNet NWE project) to calculate the emissions and cost/benefit of a district heating solution over individual heating alternatives for your area.

There are many different types of business models available to public sector bodies when implementing a district heating network. These range from being fully-owned, operated and maintained by the public body itself right through to full privatisation, with various levels of public- private partnerships in between.

No matter what type of business model is selected, district heating projects generally require significant up-front investment. In countries like Ireland where district heating is less established, it is likely that a mixture of funding streams will need to be used, such as public and private finance, government incentive schemes, or EU funding. You can find out the key issues to consider in financing district heating networks, and the different sources and structuring of investment finance available, in the HeatNet NWE Guide to Financing 4DHC.

Develop Policy

Develop policy to prioritise locating new high-density developments within or adjacent to the opportunity areas identified and future-proof these by adopting centralised hydronic heating systems with provision for future connection to a district heating network.