Author: Baiba Norberte, Vidzeme Planning Region

Vidzeme region has one of the biggest heat losses in the district heating networks in Latvia, indicating the need to adjust existing district heating systems. “Low temperature district heating (called also 4th generation) grids are characterised by low grid losses (by decreasing the supply temperature below 70°C), integration of renewable heat (from solar, geothermal, waste and biomass sources) and integration with cooling network and smart energy systems. The technologies converting solid biomass into biogas as well as liquid biofuels will also play important role in these future smart energy systems. These smart energy systems will be characterised by high degree integration between district heating, cooling, electricity and transport fuel, leading to possible synergies among them,” says Adam Cenian, dr hab. in Institute of Fluid Flow Machinery, Polish Academy of Sciences (IMP PAN) and Lead partner for LowTEMP project.

The LowTEMP project (Low Temperature District Heating for the Baltic Sea Region) promotes smart and future-oriented heating supply technologies using low temperature grid structures. In Latvia, this project is implemented by Riga Technical University (RTU) and Gulbene Municipality and Vidzeme Planning Region. Although in countries like Germany, Sweden and Denmark low temperature district heating isn’t something new, in smaller countries like Latvia the advantages related to low temperature district heating are equally important. Adam Cenian says: “There is no big difference in this respect between rich and developing countries. The increased efficiency of district heating grids is even more important for those who are looking for savings. However, Baltic and Central EU countries must find resources and innovative economy schemes, which allow them to finance necessary investments. In some Scandinavian cases the investments were financed from savings in exploitation costs. It should be underlining that small BSR cities led by young leaders of City Councils are at the frontliners of innovation. They are often much more innovative and ready for change than larger cities.”

In the Vidzeme region, the main forerunner of implementing low temperature district heating is Gulbene Municipality with the LowTEMP project pilot case in Beļava village. “October 2018 was the start for 2018/2019 central heating season in Beļava village, and also the first pilot trial for new, recently installed low temperature district heating (LTDH) systems. For the two insulated buildings in Beļava village low temperature heating is being provided with supply and return temperatures of 55°/25°C in buildings inner heating circle,” says Sandis Kalniņš, Energy manager, Gulbene Municipality Council.

The Vidzeme Planning Region, in the framework of the LowTEMP project, has chosen a kindergarten for a pilot activity testing possibilities to improve district heating systems and even to try find solutions how to implement low temperature district heating systems. “The main project outcome of LowTEMP implementation in pilot areas is, that with every common training, seminar, meeting organised together on subjects linked to 4th generation district heating systems, the attitude towards new system (at the beginning very utopian idea about 4th generation system) are changing, people understand that this could be one of the ways how to start to think differently and more responsible about the energy issues,” says Līga Puriņa–Purīte, LowTEMP project manager in Vidzeme Planning Region, “innovation is creativeness, not only talking about arts and humanitarian subjects, but also when the topic is linked to very practical and technical subject as 4th generations central district heating systems. New innovations ask from us to think out of ordinary assumptions. Dear to take unordinary decisions and not to be afraid to look ridiculous.”

In the context of the LowTEMP project implementation RTU is mostly working with the development of a general methodology for strategic implementation of Low Temperature DH concept within sustainable energy systems at municipal level. The proposed methodology aims to promote a transferable tool within the whole Baltic Sea Region enhancing the transition to smart and sustainable DH grids. During the project implementation three Pilot Energy Strategies (PES) will be developed within the frame of the methodology implementation. One of these will be customized for Gulbene Municipality with the intention to provide concrete plans and strategic approaches to tackle the current DH problems and to identify the potential adaptation strategies for existing district heating systems.

Within the implementation of the PES for Gulbene Municipality, the pilot measure implemented in Beļava Parish, it has been possible to positively create an optimal synergy from the academia and municipality creating collaborative approaches tackling the current problems and identifying the optimal solution for the improvement of existing district heating systems.

“There are ongoing debates on pros and cons regarding the potential transition and introduction of 4th generation DH systems and Latvia is not an exception. There is evidence of a need for strategic planning both at municipal and national level aiming to prioritize in a comprehensive and holistic way the heat source, the distribution network and the final heat demand side. It is a fact that at community scale low temperature district heating represents a viable and relevant opportunity considering the need to move toward energy systems with higher share of renewable energy, greater energy efficiency and a reduced fossil energy consumption. Thus, we need resilient DH systems for which an important infrastructural adaptation is required.” says Prof. Dagnija Blumberga, Director of the Institute of Energy Systems and Environment at the Riga Technical University.

Francesco Romagnoli, LowTEMP project manager, Institute of Energy System and Environment at the Riga Technical University stated: “More than one third of the final energy consumption is related to the building sector that also accounts for the largest fraction of greenhouse gas emissions. The optimization of DH systems is a key priority to match sustainability criteria and safe energy supply in the light of a larger use of renewable energy sources and waste heat energy sources. Low temperature DH concept represents a perfect “cocktail” to create a consistent and reliable approach involving different actors: DH operators, community and municipality, energy experts and academia with a common target to create a more harmonized transition to smart energy systems. A bottom-up approach starting from pilot measures and leading to a global vision is essential to identify the strengths and bottlenecks for such kind of innovation transfer approach. In the LowTEMP project the heat is on!”

Photos: Baiba Norberte, Vidzeme Planning Region