man in work wear in front of supply plant
The HEATman partnership aims to ensure cheap and sustainable district heating in Denmark. Photograph: Brønderslev Forsyning
Next-generation district heating

Meet HEATman: Major commercial partnership gives boost to Danish district heating

Backed by a grant of DKK 25 million from Innovation Fund Denmark, 16 players aim to revolutionise the district heating sector. NIRAS is heading up the project, which aims to extract valuable knowledge from the sector’s data.

26. Mar 2019

Cheap and sustainable district heating. This is the mission of a landmark partnership between district heating companies, universities, technology companies and software providers that was launched in March 2019.

The name of the consortium is HEATman, and the aim of the project is to dig deep into the incredible amounts of data the district heating sector generates, and extract valuable knowledge.

With a DKK 25 million grant from Innovation Fund Denmark and a total budget of DKK 36 million, the stage is set for a development project that aims to ensure Denmark retains its leading position in the design, development and operation of district heating infrastructure.

“Denmark has long been a leading nation in relation to energy-efficient district heating. But to maintain and strengthen this position, we must continue to make improvements and incorporate technological developments. This is the rationale behind the HEATman initiative,” says project director Michael Lassen Schmidt from NIRAS.

60,000 km of district heating pipes

A whopping 60,000 km of district heating pipes are buried underground in Denmark. Over 400 different district heating companies use these to supply private homes and businesses with low-cost energy-efficient heat. Unfortunately, Denmark’s leading position in district heating is under threat. One reason for this is the new energy accord from 2018, which fundamentally alters the framework conditions for district heating companies.

Another major challenge is the fact that the sector’s IT systems for production, distribution, maintenance and usage measurement do not communicate with each other, because they have been developed by different software companies. It has therefore not yet been possible to create a solution that allows real-time adjustment of both consumption and production based on data.

“District heating plants are being subjected to changing demands from society and customers, while new technologies are offering new opportunities that place demands on the plants’ competencies. This is where HEATman comes in, making it easier for plants to take advantage of artificial intelligence, data collection, IoT in cloud-based environments and other advances. It aims to give them data-intelligent models and forecasts to optimise their operations control,” says Alfred Heller, Lead Data Scientist at NIRAS.

Future-proof district heating

NIRAS is the project manager for HEATman, and will drive the commercial partnership over the next three years.

“HEATman is an extremely interesting and vital development project with far-reaching implications – not only for Denmark, but also internationally. As a long-standing adviser to Danish district heating companies and based on our market-leading expertise in relation to digitisation of utilities and system planning, we look forward to heading up this project,” says Stefan Schmidt, Vice President at NIRAS.

HEATman’s vision is to future-proof district heating by providing cutting-edge knowledge, which will also attract the attention of other countries. For example, the partners will investigate how leaks in district heating pipes can be located and stopped more efficiently, and explore the possibility of storing green energy in the district heating grid.

Ultimately, HEATman aims so ensure cheap and sustainable district heating for Danes, and potentially abroad.