District heating digitalisation: 4 DHC+ webinar insights and 3 case studies 

3 min read

District heating leaders are exploring ways to extract value from DHC data and improve the performance of their systems via digitalisation. Investment in digital tooling has already revealed a significant impact, helping companies across Europe reach their sustainability objectives. 

The Digitalisation in the DHC systems: the Utility Perspective webinar on September 19, 2023, organised by the international network for district energy, Euroheat & Power, and its European hub for research & innovation, DHC+, showed how leaders apply and benefit from digital solutions. Here is the link to the webinar recording. 

The webinar offered many additional practical insights from utilities to the digitalisation report: 

  • The currently available digital solutions offer good coverage of the entire value chain, and the impact they can provide is increasing, due to the growing availability of data.  

  • A digitalisation roadmap should include a point for establishing interoperability between data and systems to ensure that companies can use insights across silos.  

  • There is a shortage of human resources in the utility sector, so digitalisation and automation will play a key role in future-proofing district heating operations.  

  • At the same time, digital systems will ensure operations are smarter by choosing the most profitable options and identifying mistakes in heating operations, for example allowing companies to buy and sell electricity at favourable moments at the different E-markets. 

To give you an idea of how district heating companies are already implementing practical measures, we share three success stories that illustrate the potential of digital technologies for this sector. 

1. Wien Energie: Reducing forward temperature by 4 degrees 

Wien Energie aims to achieve net zero in terms of district heating by 2040. For the past two years, the company has been optimising multiple heating networks with a focus on reducing the temperature, heat loss, CO2 emissions, and operational expenses all at once.  

To implement solutions such as heat pumps and geothermal energy, network temperatures, especially in the many secondary networks, are very important. This called for digital tooling. By using a Digital Twin Platform that operates in real-time, combining geographical, weather, and sensor data with physics-based models and AI, Wien Energie reduced forward temperature by 4 degrees. Aside from temperature optimisation, the platform also enabled the company to make more data-driven decisions.   

For more details, read the full story here

2. Mantova: Reducing costs and 550+ tonnes of CO2 emissions 

SEI – the company that owns and runs the district heating network in Mantova, Italy – is determined to decarbonise its system and cut total gas usage by investing in renewable energy sources and improving overall energy system efficiency to achieve this goal.  

In recent years, SEI has completed several projects to increase data collection in the network by installing smart heat meters or remotely steerable valves and pumps. To extract value from the dramatically increased amount of data, SEI implemented a Digital Twin solution. This resulted in a reduction of more than 550 tons of CO2 emissions per year compared to the previous operation. 

To learn more about this project, check out this success story.  


3. Uniper: Saving costs and CO2 emissions by optimising the dispatch in real-time 

Uniper strives towards cost-effectiveness and decarbonisation in heat production units linked to district heating networks by 50% in 2030. The company implemented a Digital Twin for one of its heating systems, including the heat distribution in the network and the heat production units.  

Heat sources, hydraulics, and user data are all incorporated into this effort and utilised to optimise and forecast the behaviour of the heating system. This allows for real-time optimisation of the heat dispatch by selecting the most cost-efficient operation strategy for the heat-producing assets, all the while ensuring that each user in the network receives adequate heat. 

Explore the full story here.  

Wrap up 

The webinar organised by Euroheat & Power and DHC+ offered a wealth of practical insights into how district heating companies can benefit from digital solutions by creating value across silos, smarter decision-making, and automation. 

The three success stories above illustrate the potential impact of digitalisation on optimising district heating grids and meeting sustainability objectives, both today and in the future. If you’re curious about how to get started on your digitalisation journey, read the full report by DHC+ released earlier this year.  

All the providers mentioned in this article are working with a Digital Twin solution. Explore an example solution on this page

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