Clean energy transition: the role of district heating systems

The clean energy transition is gaining pace at a global scale as more and more key actors embrace the shift from traditional, fossil fuel-based energy sources to renewable and sustainable alternatives. 

A consensus has now been reached among citizens and government bodies and legislations are being enforced to guarantee the transition to renewable energy takes place. These facts are also being accompanied by significant investments, such as Europe’s 1 billion budget for the clean energy transition.

These efforts are putting an important focus on energy production and use, a key contributor in greenhouse gas emissions, as well as heating initiatives, which account for around half of the total energy consumption. This is precisely where district heating initiatives stand out as a means to decarbonize energy and achieve the green energy transition.

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The clean energy transition: what are the requisites to achieve it

While the clean energy transition has been hailed for years now as a key necessity in the fight against climate change, it’s no simple feat. Accelerating the transition towards renewable energies needs a number of complex factors coming together: from private finance to changes in public policy and an acceleration in energy technologies. 

In fact, here are some key transformations that can enable the clean energy transition: 

A supportive policy and regulatory framework

Public administrations need to establish regulations, incentives, and standards that encourage the development of clean energy technologies. So far, this has included establishing renewable energy targets, implementing carbon pricing mechanisms as well as generating financial incentives for projects with clean energy as a target.


The implementation of adequate infrastructures is essential for the green energy transition. A strategic planning of wind farms, solar power plants, and hydroelectric facilities involves maximizing their efficiency and minimizing their environmental impacts.

Energy storage technology

Renewable energy sources such as wind and solar are typically intermittent. This means energy storage technology is vital for balancing supply and demand. 

District heating: environmental benefits

Optimizing industrial and urban heating solutions remains a crucial step for moving away from fossil fuels and achieving the clean energy transition. District heating lies at the heart of promoting renewable energy integration in this area. 

This centralized approach to energy is able to provide heat to multiple buildings through the generation of heat from a central heat source and its distribution via a network of pipes. While district heating systems used to rely on fossil fuels, they’re now hailed because of their capacity to employ industrial heat pumps and thus decarbonize energy production.


As such, today district heating systems provide a practical means of integrating renewable energy sources into the energy mix. From seawater heat pumps to solar thermal, industrial waste heat, geothermal or biomass sources, district heating systems across the globe are contributing to the development of renewable energy technologies, accelerating the transition towards a more sustainable energy system.

In fact, the list of renewable sources that can be incorporated into district heating systems includes biomass, geothermal energy, solar thermal energy and waste heat recovery. Furthermore, it's worth noting that district heating systems can also incorporate a combination of renewable energy sources in order to achieve a higher efficiency and reliability.

Additionally, district heating structures present other environmental benefits which are pushing their growing implementation. These include: 

  • The reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by replacing fossil fuel-based heating systems and employing renewable energy sources with significantly lower carbon footprint compared to fossil fuels. 

This also results in an improvement in local air quality by reducing emissions of air pollutants. 

  • High energy efficiency and resource conservation. Industrial heat pumps are known to perform at outstanding efficiency rates. This adds up to additional good practices in efficiency, such as employing waste heat or thermal storage structures. The result is resource conservation and reduced environmental impact.

The energy efficiency is also achieved thanks to these system’s lower transmission losses compared to individual heating systems. This means energy waste is further minimized.

  • District heating systems present a flexible structure that means they can adapt to the needs of each project and location. As such, they’ve been known to provide key water conservation results for water-stressed regions.

What the clean energy transition will look like: district heating models of the present and the future

As more and more efforts are put into achieving the transition to renewable energy, the winning combination in urban and industrial heating for the present and the years to come has taken the following shape:

  • Modern district heating structures. 5th generation district heating are able to incorporate renewable energy sources thanks to their ability to work with temperatures closer to ground values (at around 50 Cº). This represents an evolution from previous models, which needed to deliver hot water at temperatures of around 80 Cº. Such structures thus perform an enhancement in low-grade heat that can be crucial in incorporating locally-available energy sources.
  • High-efficiency heat pumps. These are key in the switch from burning fossil fuels to the electrification of heat production. Modern, well-adjusted industrial heat pumps are able to reach efficiencies of between 3 to 6 units, an outstanding feat meaning they provide at least 3 units of energy compared to the amount of energy they consume.
  • Systems that minimize heat losses, such as thermal storage tanks. As part of  5th generation district heating systems, TES tanks provide a solution to the current challenge of the intermittency of renewable energy sources. As such, they’re able to store energy produced during low-demand periods to be used when peak demand occurs.

The result is a highly-efficient, decentralized approach to heating that reduces waste and incorporates renewable energies, all while generating a circular model.

At Araner, we put our heating engineering expertise to develop cutting-edge district heating projects that push forward efforts to achieve the clean energy transition. As such, we offer tailor-made district heating systems that embrace locally-available renewable energy sources and maximize efficiencies. Take a look at our free guide about District Heating technologies, or get in touch with our team to discover how we can help in making your project align with the green energy transition.

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