The future of district energy is evolving right now in Copenhagen's Nordhavn district. The EnergyLab Nordhavn is developing ways to integrate renewable power, heat, transport and energy-efficient buildings into an intelligent, flexible energy system. Among the innovations making this possible are connected components that continuously optimize energy consumption and provide data on energy flows; district heating networks suitable for ultra-low temperatures; and such unconventional energy sources as excess heat from refrigeration units in supermarkets.
Pioneers in district energy can also be found in Berlin, where Vattenfall is building Europe's largest power-to-heat plant, and in Hamburg, where the soil beneath the city will be used as a seasonal heat storage.
These examples show: The district energy sector has the potential to become more than ever a driver for the energy transition. Policy-makers expect us to use this potential for the benefit of everyone.
Are we ready to take on this role? What will be required to master these challenges?
I am convinced that innovative technologies will make an important contribution. Digitalization will revolutionize district energy as well. Keywords such as internet of things (IoT), machine learning (ML), and artificial intelligence (AI) are finding their way into the sector. And with them come new means to gather and evaluate data (IoT), predict energy consumption (ML), and match it with heat supply (AI). This allows us to optimize temperatures in the network, shift heat loads in buildings, and utilize the heat storage capacities of the district energy infrastructure. This can be a real game changer in an energy system that needs to integrate ever increasing volumes of volatile renewable energy.
The benefits for all parties involved are enormous: increased energy efficiency, reduced emissions, improved comfort for residents, and lower costs. At the same time, we need to ensure that new technologies are resilient against cyber security threats and sensitive data is protected.
Now is the time to mobilize the innovative power of our industry to implement District Energy 4.0. We have the opportunity to help shape not just our sector, but the entire energy system.
I am looking confident to the new year and forward to the innovations we will develop together in 2018.
Anton Koller, Divisional President - District Energy, Danfoss
This article was originally published in the January edition of the Euroheat&Power magazine (in German).