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Retrofitting district heating systems: contributing to long-term renovation strategies

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The EU Energy Efficiency Directive requires Member States to submit long-term strategies for mobilising investment in the renovation of building stock within their National Energy Efficiency Plans. Recent changes to the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) require the adoption of long-term renovation strategies as part of the National Energy and Climate Plans. The amended EPBD shows a clearer path towards achieving low- and zero-emission building stock in the EU by 2050, underpinned by national roadmaps and public and private investment.


When it comes to district heating system renovation, the EU strategy for a climate-neutral Europe by 2050 outlines that energy-efficiency measures, both on the supply and the demand side, should play a central role in reaching the 2050 goal. Therefore, retrofitting existing distribution networks is considered to be crucial to reducing energy losses. Moreover, the EU strategy contends that a majority of homes should be using district heating systems that run on renewable energy sources. When replacing ageing infrastructure, smart networks and sector integration are recommended to achieve the decarbonisation objective.


“When planning improvements of district heating systems, it is essential to take into account the future energy demand of buildings. Therefore, the renovation of buildings and retrofitting of district heating systems should go hand in hand,” says Carsten Rothballer, Coordinator for Sustainable Resources, Climate and Resilience at ICLEI Europe. “Despite the buildings requiring less energy, the feasibility of district heating systems should not be put into question. On the contrary, reduced peak demand and lower supply temperature, paired with sustainable energy sources, can make district heating a very viable, cost-effective option!” he adds. “The KeepWarm project, funded by the EU Horizon 2020 programme, through exchange of knowledge and policy integration activities, is on the right track to raise the ambition of current district heating renovation in Central and Eastern Europe,” says Stefanie Schädlich, coordinator of KeepWarm at Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ).


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