Interreg HeatNet

Heerlen: pilot and model in new HeatNet project in north-western Europe

The Interreg NWE low carbon programme has accepted a project idea that aims to develop low-carbon district heating. Fourteen partners are involved in the project, and investments in heating systems are being made in six locations. Heerlen is one of these pilot locations along with Dublin, Aberdeen, Plymouth, Kortrijk, and Boulogne-sur-Mer. A total of twelve million euros is being invested, 1.6 million of which in Heerlen, while the European Commission is contributing an additional seven million euros. In the last few days, all the partners visited Heerlen during the kick-off meeting. Mijnwater BV is using the resources to expand a cluster cellar (an exchange station for cooling and heating) and the network in cluster D. This relates to the connection of industry and homes in Heerlen Noord. Heerlen already has an extensive and innovative heat and cooling network. The HeatNet experts were impressed with what they saw and are keen to follow this example.

Interreg NWE wants to strengthen north-western Europe as an important economic player and as an attractive place to live and work, featuring a high level of innovation, sustainability, and social cohesion. The HeatNet project aims to reduce CO2 emissions in cities in north-western Europe by supplying sustainable and carbon-free heating and cooling (including waste heat) to homes and commercial buildings. The approach is being developed and tested in six local energy grids in the UK, Ireland, Belgium, France, and the Netherlands. This involves introducing and demonstrating 4th generation DHC grids (District Heating and Cooling Grids). Unlike traditional district heating, the distribution pipelines are fed by very low temperatures for heating. In the connected buildings, a heat pump generates the high temperatures required, while buildings can also be cooled thanks to the low temperature of the water. Heerlen uses its mines as a source of warm water, with the heat pumps using only half the energy of other models. Both the European Commission and the Dutch top sector in Energy (topsector Energie) indicate that this form of heat and cold supply is an important pillar in the transition to cleaner energy. In the long term, five million homes in the Netherlands alone will have to be connected to such a thermal energy network in combination with heat pumps in order to achieve the goals of COP21 (Paris, 2015). The market potential for this development is therefore enormous. The use of geothermal energy will also have to take huge leaps in the coming decades! The concept that involves water from mines is also an indispensable part for Parkstad Limburg Energietransitie (PALET).

After its completion in 2019, the HeatNet project itself will directly generate savings of 15,000 tons of CO2. The most important results also include:

  1. The development and testing of a HeatNet model for the approach of 4th generation networks in NWE.
  2. The building, testing and demonstrating of six living labs.
  3. Setting up roadmaps for the further rollout of the energy networks in each location.
  4. The development of strategies for upscaling these networks in other cities in north-western Europe. This not only concerns technical aspects, but also institutional and organizational barriers (new roles and responsibilities of the parties involved, regulations and policy, spatial planning, business models and viability, connection for financing and markets, acceptance, etc.).

The HeatNet consortium is applying the most recent knowhow about 4G DHC(Mijnwater BV, Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, urban policy development) in practice by creating successful infrastructure in the six participating cities. This knowledge will then be distributed and made suitable for upscaling to other locations. During the intensive workshops at the Open University campus in Heerlen, the ambition to expand from 6 to 60 cities was announced.

Interreg HeatNet NWE Brochure – Developing district heating in North-West Europe