22 million people in the EU now use district heat and cooling systems

District heat and power technology is becoming ‘greener’ and now supplies 22 million people in the European Union, with an annual turnover of €19 billion (£11.5 billion), says a new report.

According to District Heat in Europe 2001, published by Euroheat and Power, the international association for district heat and cooling and combined heat and power generators, in some countries there has been considerable growth in district heating systems. “Some countries are much much more concerned about energy saving than others,” a Euroheat and Power spokesman explained to edie. Such systems also require an element of planning which some nations are not so good at, he said, adding that district heating systems now occur in every country in the EU.

District heating has grown very strongly in the Netherlands, Austria and in Italy, and has also grown, but at a slower pace, in the mature Scandinavian markets. Denmark now has the highest penetration of district heating in the EU, with a 58% market share, followed by Finland with 50% and Sweden with 42%. Market shares in key accession countries such as Poland, Slovakia, Estonia and Lithuania are in the same order of magnitude, or even higher, says the report.

District heating and cooling systems are also becoming more ‘green’, shifting away from the use of coal and oil, towards natural gas, possibly as a result of strict environmental legislation and the increased availability and lower price of natural gas, the spokesperson told edie.

District systems also have an added environmental value when combined with the production of electricity in Combined Heat and Power plants (CHP). Following a strong growth in CHP since 1994, the vast majority of heat is now produced in combination with electricity, although this trend now appears to be weakening, says the report. One possible reason for the new slow-down in CHP is the liberalisation of the electricity market (see related story) which has resulted in a reduction in prices. Due to this lower electricity price the returns resulting from the conversion of a district heating system to CHP are not so good at the moment, the Euroheat and Power spokesman explained. Although district heating systems can be large, some of the other players in the electricity market are considerably bigger, allowing them to better withstand such changes in the market.

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