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Improving the performance of district heating systems in Central and East Europe

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - KeepWarm (Improving the performance of district heating systems in Central and East Europe)

Reporting period: 2019-07-01 to 2020-12-31

The EU aims to be climate-neutral by 2050 by emitting less and modernizing existing infrastructure. The energy production and use are currently responsible for 75% of EU greenhouse gas emissions, while District Heating Systems (DHS) have the largest share of energy consume and are in most cases highly energy inefficient as the heating sector is still dominated by fossil fuels and obsolete, inefficient technologies. Experiences, knowledge and access to improve the performance and finance a refurbishment of the DHS are often limited. Nonetheless, for reaching the EU climate neutrality as well as SDGs N°7 Affordable and Clean Energy and N°13 Climate Action, the enhancement of DH performances is crucial – they offer a huge untapped potential for renewable energy and energy efficiency development.

Together with 30 pilot DHS in the 7 implementation countries and in close alignment with national actors, KeepWarm focused on accelerating cost-effective investments in the modernisation of DHS and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. While promoting sustainable pathways to retrofit existing DHS by upgrading their operational efficiency and switching to local renewable excess energy sources, the project partners facilitated the exchange of good practice, provided recommendations to reach individual climate and energy targets by facilitating DHS retrofits to be fully aligned with regulations and integrated into planning processes, and supported key stakeholders could boost the competitiveness of local economies and further reduce emissions.

The project’s multi-stage approach was tailored in a way that any DHS can effectively modernise and decarbonise, thereby accelerating feasible and replicable transitions Europe-wide.
KeepWarm prioritised a step-by-step approach:
(1) Increase the capacity of specialists working in DHS companies
(2) Develop viable business plans considering a greater use of renewable energy, the integration of sustainable excess heat and use of waste-to-energy solutions in line with waste-reduction strategies
(3) Mobilise funding for bankable pilot projects
(4) Exhibit replicable DHS demo cases to increase networks efficiency
(5) Facilitate the integration of retrofitting DHS into key energy strategies and plans
The project partners ensured that best practices for environmental-friendlier heating and cooling are taken up across Europe, replicating KeepWarm’s approach in other countries and regions, even beyond the end of the project. Findings of project reviews and pilots help to generate concrete proposals and recommendations for the upgrade of energy and climate related plans.
Training needs assessment & material: Training needs assessment was done with 52 DHS operators among the KeepWarm countries to identify individual training needs and develop a tailor-made capacity approach. In total 813 participants (617 DHS employees and 196 external stakeholders) have increased their skills/capability/ competencies. The used training material is open available on the KeepWarm website.

Technical and economic feasibility studies: Ensuring a sustainable uptake of DHS, the current state of DHS, the renewable energy source potential in the countries and an analysis of the DHS market, including current and potential consumers, were done. In total 23 feasibility studies were created for the KeepWarm partner DHSs, including in total 73 tailor-made scenarios on how to optimise the specific DHSs.

Business plans: 109 specialists were trained on business plan development and 24 Business Models for the modernization of DHS were developed of which 12 reached overall investments of 111.3 Million €.

Investments: 12 DHSs finalized several investment phases and achieved investments of approx. 111.3 Million €:
Until the end of 2023, the overall expected investment is approx. 280.5 Million € into RES integration (biomass and solar energy), grid optimisation and expansion, boiler rooms’ renovation and other energy efficiency measures. Until the end of 2028 overall approx. 617.5 Million € investments are expected.

Primary Energy savings share of RES and CO 2 reduction: KeepWarm achieved in its project duration 484,24 GWh primary energy savings, an increase of RES use of 223,42 GWh & a reduction of 98.201 t greenhouse gas emissions.

Replicable DHS demo cases: 24 demo cases are promoted on the project website of which 11 DHSs are selected to be replication models which have either finished with retrofit process or are extended, while other demo cases are either ongoing or will be implemented. In certain countries, one model can represent more finished/ ongoing investments due to the similarity in approach (e.g. pipeline renovation or change of energy source).

Strategic importance of future energy systems featured - Energy and climate plans: Efforts of the KeepWarm Consortium resulted in an analysis of the current regulatory framework and barriers in its partner countries, while findings serve as input for the development of Action plans for retrofitting, DHS recommendations for strategy or plan integration and for the support to 2nd Comprehensive Assessment of the potential for efficient heating and cooling. Overall the KeepWam consortium advised 30 energy and climate plans on local, regional or national level. Furthermore, the KeepWarm consortium developed a Comprehensive Assessment guide and shared it with relevant stakeholder and entities/ organizations to ensure that the potential for the application of high-efficient CHP and efficient district heating and cooling will be applied.

Exploitation: To exploit KeepWarm results and its approach, the project partners offer (1) comprehensive and independent solutions for DHS, starting with a quick overview of potential steps for optimisation, networking support, technical support, consulting, market uptake and access to finance, and (2) training materials for DHS personnel (and other stakeholders) and Policy Guidelines
Seven major impacts, which lead to reduce energy losses, the dependency on fossil fuels and the greenhouse gas emission and to increase the use of RES and the awareness of modernization and retrofitting of DHS, were reached:
1. Primary energy savings triggered by the proposed action
2. Increased share of renewable sources of heat
3. Reduction in greenhouse gas emissions
4. Scale of the replicability potential of the proposed solutions
5. Integration of DHS retrofitting in regional or national action plans
6. Preparing the ground for investment
7. Building capacities and skills
24 Business models and 23 action plans for retrofitting of DHS have been developed and 12 investments of approx. 111.3 Million € have been achieved. By the end of 2023, the overall expected investment is approx. 280.5 Million €. DHS network retrofitting have been taken into consideration in 13 local energy plans and 7 regional and 10 national strategies/plans. This triggers further interest across Europe and finally the KeepWarm approach will be replicated across Europe and taken into consideration in further EU policies and initiatives. For replicating, all the training material is available on the KeepWarm website. Furthermore, the KeepWarm consortium prepared and initiated 11 DHS retrofitting schemes/models. Out of these, a set of roadmap guidelines for replication was prepared. Moreover, further secondary DHS were benefitting from KeepWarm by participating in the KeepWarm twinning events.
New heat substation in Velenje DH network, Slovenia 052020 ©KPV
DHS Brno - distribution network, Czech Republic – 05 2020 ©TSCR
Logos of involved partners in the KeepWarm project
Biomass pellets storage Ternopil DHS, Ukraine – 12 2020 ©KT-Energy
Reconstruction of pipelines in DHS Velenje, Slovenia 052020 ©KPV
Optimisation of DHS Jekabpils – diversification of fuel and automation,1st part change of gas boiler
Priboj biomass (wood chips) heating plant with a capacity of 1.8 MW, Serbia – 10/ 2019 ©VINCA
Construction site for ORC CHP unit in Zhytomyr DHS, Ukraine – 12/ 2020 ©KT-Energy
New boiler house of DHS Eibiswald from outside, Austria – 012021 ©LkStmk
Overview of involved target countries
Finished new boiler house of DHS Eibiswald from outside, Austria – 01/2021 ©LkStmk
Priboj building of the boiler room of the 1.8 MW biomass heating plant, Serbia – 10/ 2019 ©VINCA
Pilot project public school’s boiler room, Croatia – 12/ 2020 ©REGEA
New hot water pipelines of DHS Ceske Budejovice, Czech Republic– 08 2018 ©TSCR
KeepWarm Logo