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Integrated tool for empowering public authorities in the development of sustainable plans for low carbon heating and cooling

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Integrated tool helps local government draw up district heating networks

Public bodies currently face a lack of appropriate easy-to-use tools to support them in the definition, simulation and evaluation of suitable strategies for sustainable heating and cooling tailored to local conditions for achieving the ambitious targets set up in their local plans.


The EU-funded Planheat project addressed this challenge by developing and validating in real case scenarios an integrated and easy-to-use tool that helps local authorities select, simulate and compare alternative low-carbon and economically sustainable scenarios for heating and cooling. “The tool includes the integration of alternative supply solutions from a panel of advanced key technologies for the new heating and cooling supply that can balance the forecasted demand,” reports project coordinator Stefano Barberis. The Planheat tool is a QGIS plug-in based on an open-source code that can analyse, plan and simulate low-carbon heating and cooling scenarios to support EU public authorities in updating and developing sustainable energy plans. “It comprises three open-source modules, the mapping module, the planning module and the simulation module, which can be operated via the integrated tool or used individually,” Barberis explains.

An integrated approach

Via these tool modules, users can map local heating and cooling demand, both current and predicted future, and potential low-carbon and renewable energy sources. The data can then be used to realise new plans according to the city’s climate ambitions and priorities. The platform allows the visualisation and mapping of results, visualisation of the scenarios selected with the planning tool, and visualisation of results coming from the simulations via a specific panel of key performance indicators. Barberis states: “The user is guided by a step-by-step procedure that, starting from the assessment of the local heating and cooling demand and potential sources, leads the user through the whole planning process towards the simulation of future low-carbon scenarios.” Both newcomers in energy planning and experienced public authorities can use the Planheat tool. “Thanks to its parallel bottom-up and top-down approach, the tool can be used by cities that are already working in energy planning and have advanced data available, such as our validation city Antwerp, as well as by public entities that are beginners and maybe do not yet have a wide amount of data related to their local energy scenario, like our validation city Lecce,” notes Barberis.

Easy to use

The Planheat tool allows users to map low-carbon urban heating and cooling demand and both current and predicted future, potential low-carbon and renewable energy sources such as waste heat and industrial waste heat via innovative algorithms and methodologies. Furthermore, creation of economically viable district heating networks thanks to its District Heating and Cooling Route Optimiser is also possible. Thanks to the integration of EU-wide databases, the Planheat tool itself supports energy planners in the creation of their new scenarios as end users are guided step-by-step through the three modules. Moreover, consultants and companies working with local authorities can use the tool free of charge. There is a dedicated e-learning platform that includes trainings and video tutorials for all tool modules and a tool manual to make the initial steps in using the tool as easy as possible. As the tool and the code are open source, future developers of heat planning tools can also use the results and refine the tool. “Planheat is aimed at cities, local authorities and regions and can be used with little technical knowledge and a minimum of available data,” Barberis concludes.


Planheat, tool, heating and cooling, low-carbon, planning, district heating, open-source, mapping, renewable energy, QGIS

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