Why today’s heating and cooling systems must change

Heating and cooling already consume a huge amount of the world’s energy, and with increasing demand for comfortable homes, a slowdown in energy consumption looks unlikely, putting the world way off target in limiting the global temperature increase to 2 degrees. Watch the film to see how district heating and cooling can help keep our buildings comfortable sustainably.

Growing demand for heating and cooling calls for energy efficiency

Limiting global warming to 2°C degrees will be a huge task, let alone meeting the Paris Agreement’s target of 1.5°C. How can we balance comfort with sustainability when buildings already account for 40% of the world's energy consumption and cooling demand alone is set to more than triple by 2050?

To meet today's demands and make sure we are prepared for tomorrow's challenges, we need sustainable innovations, and we need to become more energy efficient. 

District heating and cooling is set to play a big role with its capacity to enable grid optimisation and integrate renewable and surplus energy sources that are currently going to waste. But only with the right design and operation.

The challenges with today’s heating and cooling systems

Today’s district heating and cooling systems are not always designed and operated efficiently, and they’re marred by issues like heat and pressure losses and uneven heat distribution. 

This is mainly because they run with setpoints that serve the buildings with the highest demands, meaning the highest consumers of energy determine how the entire grid should be operated. The higher the temperature, the less energy-efficient and high-performing the system will be, which ultimately results in uneven heat distribution and big heat losses.

Another critical issue with a lot of today’s district heating is that there is still a high reliance on fossil fuels. Today, 75% of European heating is based on fossil fuels. On a global scale, it’s even worse, with 90% of district heating based on fossil fuels in 2022. 

Many district heating and cooling utilities have already started integrating more sustainable energy sources into their grids, including surplus heat from data centres or wastewater treatment facilities and renewable sources of energy like wind and solar, but we’re far from there yet. To truly unleash the potential of district heating and cooling, we need to go away from silo thinking in our heating systems.

The world is projected to pass the two-degree temperature increase that’s been set as a limit.

75% of Europe’s heating is fossil fuel-based. With district heating, we can harvest surplus energy.

The renewable – and secure – potential of district heating

Renewables make up only 5% of district heating supplies on a global scale,  but things are changing. Renewable energy consumption in district heating and cooling is expected to grow by more than 40% globally, led by markets like China, Germany, Denmark and France.  

Designing and operating district heating and cooling grids with intelligent solutions makes it possible to create low-temperature zones and lower heat demand.

As a result, we can expand grids and integrate both renewable energy sources like geothermal energy, solar power and wind power and surplus energy sources like waste incineration and heat from industrial processes and data centres – sources that often simply go to waste today.

An added benefit of district heating is security of supply. By integrating sources like solar power and surplus heat, district heating is not constrained to using a single type of fuel like coal or oil, which can leave end-users vulnerable to fluctuations in price or shortages. 

A deep-dive into district heating

Read articles and use cases on how district heating can improve grid efficiency, security and flexibility while integrating renewable energy and reducing costs.

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