Connect all data, get insights across the grid, and minimise cost 

3 min read

Have you experienced that your district heating tools do not paint the full picture of the entire heating grid? Because most tools are either offline or focus on one part of the system, many insights from data remain sealed. While connected tooling and insights are key to driving savings and new profits. What could be the solution?

The operation of heating systems is getting more complex with volatile and high fuel prices, decentral sources, smart meters, and lower temperatures.

As more components are added to the heating system, more individual data sources are introduced and used across different departments. For instance: 

  • A network engineer uses offline simulation software to calculate what is hydraulically possible within the limits of the pipe network.

  • A production planner makes a schedule for the heat production one day in advance in his own software or even Excel sheet.

  • A customer manager reports on the performance of users using another platform.

Silo-ed tooling means missed optimisation potential and less efficiency. Unconnected tooling prevents reaching the full value potential, for instance, when:

  • Optimising a renewable source like a heat pump. This requires combining external inputs (e-prices), network measurement data to lower your temperatures for the COP, and the integration to optimise it in the production schedule.  

  • Using the heating’s system flexibility and capacity to store heat in accumulators, network, and even buildings, to balance production and for E-trading in different markets.  

For the day-to-day operation, having unconnected tooling means departments work less efficiently together. Communication is usually through calls, emails, and meetings– still without certainty that actions are based on the optimal decisions.

The need for integrated insights to optimise today and to be future proof 

Traditionally, there has been a focus on production optimisation: the network was considered to be one heat sink for which heat demand is predicted to optimise production. However today, the grid needs to be looked at on a granular level, considering heat propagation and hydraulics, to optimise the total heating system with all its central and decentral assets.  

There is a need for solutions to manage this complexity and to become future proof. This was one of the outcomes of recent market research among 17 district heating leaders. 

By connecting data from various sensors, systems, and tools across the heating system,  significant optimisation potential can be unlocked.  Having an overarching view of the entire grid also allows for exploring future scenarios, leading to informed decision-making and effective cost minimisation.     

Connecting data and creating integrated insights with a Digital Twin  

What could be the way to integrate the data and provide overarching insights? The recent Euroheat & Power and DHC+ report “Digitalisation in district heating and cooling systems” mentioned the value of Digital Twins: 

More complex systems require advanced software tools for effective system designs. These will ensure efficient and adaptive operation and will enable scenario-based analysis and real-time optimisation using Digital Twins that would involve optimising across all sides and levels: energy system, production, network, and buildings.” 

But what is a Digital Twin? In the McKinsey article “Digital Twins, what could they do for your business”, it is described as:  

A digital representation of a physical object—a representation that we always look at in its environment. What’s important is that you link the digital twin with real data sources from the environment and are able to update the twin in real time. (...) "A true digital twin is integrated across the value chain”. 

Another recent article by McKinsey states that around 70% of C-suite executives are exploring and investing in Digital Twin technology.  

Real-time Digital Twins are applied in multiple sectors as an overarching system for all data and insights. In district heating, data across the heating system can be connected, including network hydraulics, production schedules, user behavior, pump behavior, and fuel prices - while not replacing the current tools.

Gradyent’s Real-Time Digital Twin Platform  

At Gradyent, we have developed a real-time Digital Twin Platform. This platform creates a digital copy of the complete grid that runs in real time, combining geographical, weather, and sensor data with physics-based models and AI. It provides insights into the entire district heating system - even for places where you don’t have data or smart meters.  

This comprehensive software solution lets you optimise the grid and run simulations of future situations so that you can improve performance, reduce CO2 emissions, save on operating costs, and make smarter business decisions.   

The real-time Digital Twin Platform serves as a smart layer on top of existing systems. It is not a replacement for existing tools - it can interface with any automation system and source of data using industry-standard protocols. Making it very flexible to capture all your data and provide a live and holistic view of the entire grid.    

This enables you to:  

    1. Closely monitor each component of the heating network, gaining a deep understanding of its operation and how it is impacted by other components.

  • Identify areas where potential savings can be realised and obtain recommendations on how to achieve them.  

  • Reveal correlations and optimisation potential that were not visible before when the systems and people were working in silos.  

  • Keep working with the systems you are used to, and add the Digital Twin on top to get the full picture.    

  1. The Gradyent Real-Time Digital Twin Platform: connecting all sources of data across your grid and providing insights beyond the data

Would you like to know more about how to upgrade your grid? 

The Gradyent real-time Digital Twin Platform has enabled district heating companies across Europe to optimise, decarbonise and grow their grids. In Customer Stories, you can explore how the platform has supported them.You can find more information about the Gradyent real-time Digital Twin Platform on the Digital Twin page.  Or check out our other blog articles about creating a resilient district heating system and lowering forward temperature.

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