Spatial analysis of renewable and excess heat potentials for climate-neutral district heating in Europe

  • Pia Manz
  • Anna Billerbeck
  • Ali Kök
  • Mostafa Fallahnejad
  • Dr. Tobias Fleiter
  • Lukas Kranzl
  • Wolfgang Eichhammer

District heating can play a decisive role in the transformation to a climate-neutral building sector, replacing fossil fuels. Renewable and excess heat potentials for district heating are often spatially limited and a consistent EU-wide analysis of the potentials is not yet available. In this paper, we quantify the renewable and excess heat potentials that could supply future district heating areas for the entire EU. We combine different data sets with a high spatial resolution and conduct spatial matching. Subsequently, we cluster the results for the potentials for individual district heating areas to derive representative types. The results show that the renewable and excess heat potentials together with heat pumps are overall sufficient to supply the future district heating demand, with high technical potentials from geothermal heat and excess heat from wastewater treatment plants. Decreasing the system temperatures increases the amount of available potentials. The character and lower heat densities of the future supply sources require a paradigm shift in DH systems. Large central CHP units will need to be replaced by a diversity of several smaller sources, systems at lower temperatures and combination with heat pumps.