Towards CO2 neutral heating

Avedøre Power Plant, Copenhagen, Denmark

Avedøre Power Plant, Copenhagen, Denmark


Anders Dyrelund

Anders Dyrelund

District Heating and Energy Planning Specialist
T: +45 5161 8766

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Whether the power is generated from burning waste or the combustion of other energy sources, new research suggests that district heating may well hold the answer to one of the greatest challenges of our times: finding a CO2-neutral urban heating system.

Triggered by the oil crisis in the 1970s, Denmark became a world leader in district heating. And today, district heating supplies more than 60% of Danish homes with heat and covers 50% of the country’s general demand. In the heat of the current climate debates, there has been renewed interest in the potential of district heating as a viable low-carbon solution to urban heating. One significant study, Heat Plan Denmark, a scientific research project conducted by Ramboll and Aarhus University in 2008, is the first scientific research project regarding the potential of district heating as an integral part of realising a Danish society heated 100% by renewable energy in future. The study was updated in Heat Plan Denmark 2010.

Towards a CO2 neutral district heating sector

According to this study, Denmark can cut 50% of the heating sector’s current CO2 emissions by 2020 and be almost CO2 neutral by 2030, while cutting costs considerably. For international climate experts, the study’s historical overview also provides valuable insight into how a strong national energy policy, municipal commitment and cooperation at the consumer level can influence the development of a cost-effective, low-carbon urban heating system.

Furthermore, the plan illustrates how the above advantages can be realised by combining the following initiatives:

  • Expanding the current district heating system from covering about 46% to about 66% of the market share
  • Further connecting the district heating systems so that utilisation of surplus heat in the summer is improved 
  • Expanding  the district heating production with more heat storage tanks and more renewable energy and surplus heat
  • Consumers saving another 25% on heating and reducing their return temperature to the district heating network 
  • Expanding the district heating system with a large spectrum of renewable energy sources
  • Providing the remaining buildings with heat pumps, wood pellet boilers and solar heating
  • Connecting the majority of new buildings (approximately 70%) to district heating or block heating

The Heat Plan will strengthen Denmark’s position as the world’s leading district heating country. The plan provides visions and specific action plans based on well-documented findings, which altogether enables Danish politicians to make the rights decisions concerning the future Danish energy policies.

In particular, EU countries can find inspiration on how to plan and develop Smart City Solutions and intelligent grids for heating and cooling, not least in the efforts to implement the Renewable Energy Directive.


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