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Why District Heating doesn’t drive the Heat Transition

The network infrastructure and thus the connection to the district heating network is not feasible for all of Germany, and the reasons for this are diverse.

Approximately 15 percent of households in Germany, as well as numerous industrial enterprises, are connected to the district heating network. Alongside heat pumps, district heating is intended to play a central role in climate-friendly heating. Predominantly municipal network operators are required by law to submit plans in the coming years on how they intend to replace oil, coal, and gas with climate-neutral energies. District heating is mainly generated in combined heat and power plants, where the waste heat from electricity production is used to heat residential areas.

For many households, district heating is thus an attractive alternative to heat pumps. However, customers are often subject to a monopoly and can practically not change providers. Consumer advocates also criticize the lack of transparency in prices, which can vary significantly from municipality to municipality. Additionally, the high energy prices of 2022 and 2023 are now partly affecting customers.

The price of district heating consists of two main components: a basic price and a usage-based price. The basic price covers all costs that arise independently of actual consumption. This includes expenses for the generation and transport of district heating, as well as personnel costs for the operation and maintenance of the network infrastructure.

The network infrastructure and thus the connection to the district heating network is not feasible for all of Germany, and the reasons for this are diverse:

Infrastructure: The district heating network is not extensively available in Germany. Especially in rural areas or regions with low population density, the infrastructure for district heating is often not sufficiently developed or economically viable to realize.

Geographical conditions: The geography and topography of Germany play a role in the availability and feasibility of district heating networks. In areas with difficult terrain or geographical obstacles such as mountains or rivers, the construction of district heating pipelines can be technically challenging and costly.

Economic viability: The economic viability of a district heating connection depends on various factors, including the investment costs for the construction of the pipelines and the availability of heat sources. In some areas, the high investment costs and low demand for district heating can make implementation unlikely.

Existing heating systems: In regions where efficient heating systems are already widespread, the transition to district heating may be less attractive from an economic perspective, especially if the existing systems have not yet reached the end of their lifespan.

Infrastructure investments: The construction of a district heating network requires significant investments in infrastructure, including laying pipelines over long distances and possibly constructing heat centers for the generation and distribution of heat.

Planning and approval: Planning and approval of district heating networks can be time-consuming and costly, as various regulatory approvals must be obtained and extensive planning work is required to determine the network structure and route of the pipelines.

Technical challenges: The construction of district heating networks can be technically challenging, especially in urban areas with densely built streets and underground infrastructure such as gas, water, and electricity lines. This can lead to higher construction costs and longer construction times.

Overall, connecting to the district heating network and expanding this network are associated with significant costs and challenges, which means that it is not feasible for all of Germany and can be expensive.

Continue reading to learn about the solutions PAUL Tech offers to drive the heat transition forward.

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Why District Heating doesn’t drive the Heat Transition

The network infrastructure and thus the connection to the district heating network is not feasible for all of Germany, and the reasons for this are diverse.

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Kristina Klehr