How can the number of heating networks be increased?

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To effectively increase the density of heating networks, we must anticipate innovations and focus on connecting new customers in new residential developments and also improve communication. This is the conclusion of a study published in late April by Amorce (National Association of authorities, associations and companies for waste management, energy and heat networks).


A key challenge for the future

In accordance with the roadmap defined by the Grenelle Environment Forum, district heating networks should represent 25% of the development of renewable heat in France before 2020. In addition, the proposed energy transition law, currently being discussed in Parliament before being ratified, plans to target a fivefold increase in renewable and recovered energy by heating networks before 2030. This shows how important an issue the densification of heat networks – defined by Amorce as the connection over time of new or existing buildings in the immediate area – is for any community or manager involved.


New accommodations at the centre of the issue


Where can we find these new customers, who can justify and drive this densification? According to Amorce, in new housing estates! To accomplish this, there are three main mechanisms:


  • Upon filing the building permit, all owners must carry out or commission a study of technical and economic feasibility of all possible energy supply solutions of the future building, including heating. It is therefore imperative for the authorities in charge of the building permit instruction to check that the possibility of connecting to the district heating network was considered, with four (for buildings from 50 to 1000 m2) or nine alternative solutions possible (for buildings of more than 1000 m2).


  • Another method is based on the increase in primary energy consumption ceiling applicable to new buildings depending on the CO2 content of the network – a figure that can be estimated before the completion of construction or reduction of the carbon impact – to which it is connected. Please note that this option is only available to networks that responded to an annual survey.



  • Finally, Amorce noted that new buildings – and those which are the subject of a renovation – may not have the choice of connecting to an existing heating network. In this case, it must be able to prove that the new network distributes more than 50% renewable or recovery energy, is profitable and has a systematic meter at each delivery point.

To increase the number of heating networks, it is incumbent upon the trade to make every effort to anticipate new housing …


Communication is key

… Which inevitably requires good communication, according to Amorce. How can this be accomplished? Principally by supplying elected officials with a detailed map identifying potential connections to the heating network and areas with high growth potential – or areas of high energy density in the vicinity of a heat network.


This is not the only way, however. Communication also involves the renewal of commercial approaches, which should highlight the attractiveness of the heating network, including its advantages in terms of price (lower than other solutions), assets for the end user (more practical, no individual maintenance …) and image (renewable energy, eco-production …). Not forgetting that the network can be tailored to the needs of different customers: condominiums, social housing, industrial sites, public buildings, housing estates …


A word, finally, on the use of social networks. They can be a powerful tool in promoting, developing and increasing the number of heating networks, participating in providing the right information (and democratization thereof) to users and decision makers. Especially as there are influential voices in the social media sector, notably on Twitter. Social media can be used to convey the most important information.


Unquestionably, according to Amorce, heating networks will increase in number by relying on regulations both binding (high targets for 2020 and 2030) and beneficial (increased ceiling for the consumption of primary energy, requirement  for connection in some cases …). This is also the assumption expressed by Nicolas Garnier in the interview he gave to us. Anticipating innovation will enable communication actions to be tailored towards policy makers!



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