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Transformation of existing urban district heating and cooling systems from fossil to renewable energy sources

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - RES-DHC (Transformation of existing urban district heating and cooling systems from fossil to renewable energy sources)

Reporting period: 2020-09-01 to 2022-02-28

RES-DHC stands for a wider introduction of Renewable Energy Sources (RES) in the District Heating and Cooling (DHC) sector. The market uptake challenges for RES DHC are manifold and addressed in their full width in this project. Key topics to be mentioned are improvements to the policy and regulatory framework, introduction of planning and assessment processes, holistic transformation strategies, public acceptance and participation, technological solutions and financing, and enabling the marketing of green heat (ref. to Art. 19 of RED 2), etc. The specific actions meet the market uptake challenges of RES-DHC to a great extent, e.g.:
− Introduction of RES at a large scale
− Engagement of relevant stakeholders
− Assessment of legal, institutional and political frameworks as barriers or enablers
− Assessment of the environmental, economic and social impact of solutions
− Use of successful approaches
The main objective of this RES-DHC project is to support the transformation of existing urban DHC systems to RES in six participating regions and thereby to derive - from these practical cases - technical and organizational solutions for such transformation processes.

The Regional teams from six European regions cooperate in the RES-DHC project. In three cases the approach is “heat supplier based” and addresses close-to-implementation topics and valuable concrete case studies (AT, PL, IT). In the other three cases, the approach is “authority based” and has regional character, i.e. actions focus on the framework, market support and address numerous heat suppliers in the region (DE, FR, CH). To a great extent, however, the project shall be developed beyond these structures, by organizing international support and cooperation and building a transnational support team organized by the Danish project partner PlanEnergi. In addition, the European DH association EHP will build a bridge between regions and countries not participating and to the European level.
From the beginning, preparatory but also concrete work has been carried out in all areas of the project:
- Preparation of a baseline survey in all six regions, as well as an EU-level survey
- Establishment of regional stakeholder advisory groups in the six regions
- Development of a toolbox with existing tools for the implementation or optimisation of RES DHC
- Planning and coordination of the planned support activities between the regions
- Planning, coordination and elaboration of the regional strategy and action plans in the six regions
- Deriving the factsheets of implemented measures and actions
- Development and maintenance of the project website and social media accounts on Twitter and LinkedIn
- Design and creation of the project CI and a project leaflet
- Creation of a regular e-newsletter and further dissemination activities.

So far, the most important results and concrete activities of the project are:
- Within the framework of the EU baseline survey, waste heat potentials of European data and IT centres were surveyed and mapped.
- Furthermore, seven high-potential replication countries were identified within the EU baseline survey, which are highly focused on the dissemination activities: Croatia, Czech Republic, Ireland, Lithuania, Netherlands, Slovakia and Spain.
- Establishment of the RSAGs in the individual regions with the participation of important regional stakeholders and organisation of RSAG meetings. RSAG actively participated in the definition of the respective strategies and measures for later implementation.
- Implementation of the support activities and coachings with the participation of all project partners and in international exchange.
- Collocation and publication of the toolbox on the project website and active distribution through existing channels.
- Based on the guidelines from WP3, a total of 38 activities and measures were developed and elaborated in all six regions. Within milestone MS5, all regions started at least one measure out of their strategy and action plans. This is for example a helpdesk for heat suppliers in DE.
- Based on the requirements of the support activities, numerous events, webinars and workshops were held both within the project, including RSAG, and open to the public in all six regions. The aim was to sensitise the target groups of municipalities, heat suppliers and other stakeholders to the topic of RES in DHC and to promote an active approach.
- The social media accounts and the project website were used to promote and disseminate the project progress and activities and to address stakeholders. Specific social media campaigns, e.g. on the toolbox or the baseline surveys were specifically addressed and widely disseminated thanks to their high reach.
The key objectives and outputs in the participating regions are:
1. Improvement of the regional and national policy and regulatory frameworks for RES DHC
2. Introduction of improved DHC planning and assessment processes and integration in established planning processes of cities and regions
3. Enabling marketing of green heat and related business models
4. Creation of sustained public awareness and acceptance for RES DHC
5. Capacity building: market stakeholders (RES and DHC) are fit for implementation at a large scale, training of authorities and making improved tools available
6. Direct mobilization of investments to contribute to the transformation of the DHC sector
7. Use of the project results by target group stakeholders and replication of the project approach by EU follower regions.

The following impacts are expected for RES-DHC:
1. Facilitate the wider uptake of renewable energy generation in the energy and industrial sectors leading to an increased share of renewable energy in the final energy consumption by 2030.

2. Measurable reductions in the project development timings and efforts, fully addressing the needs for environmental impact assessments and public engagement

3. Development of more informed policy. Relevant authorities are involved in the project from the beginning. Policy makers are potential members of the RSAGs created in the first half of the project.

4. Development of more market support

5. Development of improved financial frameworks, more cost-effective support schemes and lower financing costs for RES facilities

6. Addressing national, regional and local level. RES DHC systems are local systems, that depend on regional planning and often on regional and/or national legislation.

The Danish experience shows that investment in DHC has wide societal and long-lasting effects.
In the project, duration construction and expansion of DH networks are envisioned in participating regions. This fact would decrease the annual expenses for heating of more than 5,000 households by 20% compared to individual natural gas boilers in the longer term.
Based on participating regions, there is a potential of saving more than 100 Mio. € (own estimation) for the import of fossil fuels. Within the project duration, the creation of more than 2 workplaces per region can roughly be expected as a direct result of enterprises closely related to participating partners. In the long term, the switch to RES will boost the related labour market annually by about 4 % in the active regions.
SDH in Chemnitz (Picture: inetz GmbH Chemnitz)
Logo of the H2020 RES-DHC project
Biomass heating plant (Picture: Andrei Merkulov, Adobe Stock)