Author: atene KOM GmbH & SBHub

Baltic Sea Region countries discussed the future of low temperature district heating from a variety of perspectives in the frame of the LowTEMP Conference in Malmö on the 24th of September 2019. Efficient district heating systems are an important component to achieve sustainable energy supply and thus contribute to reduced energy waste and greenhouse gas (CO2) emissions. The LowTEMP Conference brought together district heating companies, suppliers, municipalities and the academic sector to exchange about similar challenges when developing 4th generation district heating. The Conference was organised by the Swedish network Sustainable Business Hub and the Swedish energy supplier Kraftringen supported by the Interreg Baltic Sea Region project LowTEMP.

Professor Sven Werner from Halmstad University in Sweden started the Conference by pointing out that this is not the first time district heating is undergoing a shift. When today’s district heating, the 3rd generation, was developed, Sweden was at the forefront of that movement. It was designed for fossil fuels and high temperatures that are easy to produce and to deliver. He pointed out that today and in the future, most energy sources will be low-temperature with heat from cooling plants and waste, geothermal and solar energy.

Professor Kerstin Sernhed from Lund University in Sweden also recalled that today’s system is designed for high temperatures. She indicated that the challenges are different depending on whether the subject is district heating for new properties, new district heating for existing buildings or a reduction in the temperature in existing networks. We must challenge the old way of building district heating from many aspects. We need to look at new materials, new design, new standards, new installations, new players and new business models”, Kerstin Sernhed emphasised.

In line with the need for a modernised district heating system, the LowTEMP project promotes smart and future-oriented heating supply technologies using low temperature grid structures. Britta Schmigotzki, atene KOM GmbH project manager of the LowTEMP project, stressed the importance of increasing know-how on low-temperature district heating. One of the outputs of the project will be a training programme, including a District Heating Knowledge Platform, providing information on the planning, installation and management of low temperature district heating systems.

Several speakers emphasised the importance of waste heat as an important heat source. Reto Michael Hummelshøj, COWI Denmark, presented the Österby project where an existing district heating network was converted into a low temperature system. There, the shopping center in the area has an excess of energy that goes into the district heating network. Sara Kralmark from the Swedish energy supplier Kraftringen reported that they will use waste heat from the MAX IV research facility for a low temperature grid at Brunnshög. The grid will be the world’s largest low temperature district heating network.

Although the main focus of the Conference was the 4th generation district heating, it was emphasised that 3rd generation district heating will contiue to function in parallel for a long time. It this context, there are great economic and environmental benefits by lowering the supply temperature from the heat production. Smart digital temperature optimisation systems can be of great help here.

One big advantage pointed out by several speakers was that low temperature makes it possible to use plastic pipes instead of metal pipes. Plastic pipes are cheaper and more flexible. Unlike metal pipes, they can come in long sections, take up less space and have no weld.

The conference concluded with a wish for a common knowledge sharing platform – a well-received feedback for the LowTEMP partners, who joined forces to achieve capacity building in the field of smart and sustainable district heating.

All presentations by the speakers and a livestream of the Conference can be downloaded from the LowTEMP Website.

Photo credits: Vidzeme Planning Region, 2019