Harnessing technology in district heating – for a green tomorrow

How will digitalisation revolutionise district heating?

By Sophie Wyatt

21 February 2021

Buildings are responsible for around 40% of global CO₂ emissions. And a large percentage of these emissions are created by heating and air-conditioning systems. With the next generation of eco-conscious, finance-savvy tenants on the horizon, sustainability and efficiency must be prioritised.

Incorporating digital technology into heating networks will accelerate change. Not only in reducing harmful emissions, but also by allowing businesses to obtain sustainable energy at competitive prices. As well as boosting growth in the sector.

Digitalisation has the potential to revolutionise district heating. By employing smart technologies, the sector could be more efficient, reliable and environmentally friendly. And could bring several benefits.

Transparency for end users – looking at consumption

In an ever-progressing digital age, it is up to sectors to progress alongside technology. And it is important that those involved can also engage with this development. This is especially true in the case of district heating customers.

Fourth generation district heating systems are becoming increasingly smart. The Internet of Things can monitor usage, whilst big data analytics can gain insights. AI can help to predict the energy consumption in buildings. Making use of these insights, demand side response technology can reduce thermal peaks and make greater use of stored and renewable sources of energy.

Being able to understand their consumption better, customers are able to help reduce inefficiencies and waste. This helps them make smarter decisions and adjust to using energy when it’s the cheapest and when necessary. To gain improved financial transparency, it is becoming increasingly necessary that both suppliers and consumers be able to forecast and keep up with payment plans.

Having access to real-time meter readings and automatic bills also reduces the stress around buildings and speeds up resolutions.

Operational efficiency and enhanced integration of renewables

Incorporating up-to-date technology into each sector could be a significant step in the UK achieving a sustainable future. And digitalising the district heating sector could have the potential to revolutionise its environmental impact.

When it comes to green energy, most people think of solar panels and wind turbines. But there is much more to it than that – especially in the case of cooling and heating systems. Data tracking technology and low emissions heat infrastructure are significantly improving sustainability within the sector.

As well as looking at the end user’s consumption, the efficiency of the infrastructure can be optimised through the use of technology and data. Real-time data can monitor pipes to see wen they need to be replaced. GIS and grid data can be harnessed to identify heat losses and leakages. Supply temperatures and flow rate can be optimised. Optimised monitoring, controls and communication means that a low temperature system can be introduced, as well as more renewable energy and waste heat sources.

Currently, the energy mix for district heating is heavily skewed towards fossil fuels. Heat networks need to alter this energy mix in favour of renewables, to meet net zero targets. The district heating sector can be transformed into a green energy sector by cutting out fossil fuels and utilising technology. This green transition requires district heating customers to actively support their utilities. By demanding that their heating must be green, even if it is not the cheapest option in the short term. Benefits will appear in the long-term as greener options become vital in acquiring new clients and investors.

Cutting costs

With ambitions to extend heat networks across the UK, district and communal heating suppliers will require more capabilities to deliver effective service to numerous houses and manage a range of data, such as processing various billing charges, payments and incoming inquiries. This may appear overwhelming, especially given the numerous tools and systems that must be coordinated regularly.

With the added bonus of consumers being able to view their own consumption, costs can be cut considerably at the source.

How can Welcome help?

Welcome Energy was created to meet the dire need for a transparent, stress-free and value for money metering and billing solution. Our team brings together over 30 years of experience in the billing of communal and district heat networks and their utilities and financial account management.

We have always been ahead of the curve when it comes to heating efficiency and transparency. And we want to help our clients find opportunities in the evolving heating landscape.

To learn more about what Welcome Energy can do for your business or property, get in touch today.