Alleviating heat market distortions and supply insecurities: REPLACE initiatives as Best Practice

Biomass micro-grids supply several households with heat. Installing a centralized heating system like that can help to overcome the limited availability of installers. Further REPLACE initiatives include e.g. joint purchase actions, local subsidy programs or pre-feasibility studies.

German project pilot region Oberland/Bavaria: biomass micro-grids

One way to overcome the limited availability of installers is to consider a centralized biomass heating system, e.g. woodchip based, with a small heat distribution network, if this is possible. Such, so-called biomass micro-grids, are particularly suitable for rural areas or settlements outside of urban centers with forest rich regions nearby. Modern biomass micro grids consist of standardised plug-and-play central heating containers with pre-installed boilers, hot water tanks, hydraulics and control systems etc. A concrete foundation is required for the heating device container and probably for a further biomass storage container. In addition, trenches laid to a couple of houses are connected to the central heating system. A modern, smaller biomass micro grid can be installed within a few weeks. Installers who are currently in high demand are only required for the heat transfer station on the consumer side. These installers are often employees of the heat supplier or micro-grid operator. Since biomass micro-grids involve comparatively less work , they can contribute to facilitating the energy transition through the resources saved. Within Replace, this proved to be a successful model, especially in the German pilot region, where even larger biomass district grids have been realised. The project partner Civic Foundation Energiewende Oberland (EWO) enabled households with this approach to act quickly even in times of crisis and multi-level supply shortages. More information on EWO related activities is available here. More general background information on this topic is available here.

Project pilot region State of Slovenia: joint purchase action

Another way of overcoming supply disruption issues and attracting potential suppliers to engage is to launch collective actions. The project partner Jožef Stefan Institute (JSI) organised a joint heat pump purchase action, where 147 replacements of oil and gas boilers in households were accomplished. As the target of 50 heat pumps was overachieved successfully, a follow-up collective action is envisaged. An example of a realized fuel switch in a Ljubljana placed family house is available here. Furthermore, the “Replace Your Heating System Calculator”, developed by REPLACE, was rolled out as public advisory tool by the funding agency. The Slovenian independent energy advisors did not have such a decision-making advice tool before. Now households benefit from a better decision-making basis.

Spanish pilot region Castilla y León, Central-North Spain: local subsidy program

The project partners EREN (Ente público Regional de la Energía de Castilla y León) and ESCAN (Escan sl) managed to establish a local subsidy program financed by public funds that allows residential sector buildings within the pilot region to switch from coal, oil and gas towards biomass boilers. Several MW of residential oil and coal boilers have been replaced by local biomass fueled, modern boilers. More information about ongoing activities in Spain is available here. Furthermore, the development of a biomass logistics hub (a collective action) is envisaged.

North Macedonian pilot region Skopje Region: decision making tool for heat pumps

The project partner SDEWES-Skopje (Macedonian Section of the International Centre for Sustainable Development of Energy, Water and Environment Systems) developed a decision-making tool for inverter air-air heat pumps (operable in reverse mode for air conditioning), which is similar to the REPLACE Calculator, but aimed at this specific need. Recently, a pre-feasibility study for an apartment building (with seven apartments) regarding a switch from a direct electric heating system towards a collective purchase of an air-air inverter heat pump, including a photovoltaics plant applicable for an energy community scheme was conducted. More information on those activities is available here.

Bosnia and Herzegovina’s pilot region Sarajevo Canton: pre-feasibility studies

The project partner Enova d.o.o. Sarajevo (Enova) prepared six pre-feasibility studies for the replacement of heating systems in residential buildings free of charge by means of the REPLACE Calculator. At least four more studies are planned to be performed in the next quarter. Such information has not been available to local households so far. It is planned that this activity will be continued even after the project and that it will become a standard when replacing the heating system in households in Sarajevo Canton, but also in the entire territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina. More information on those activities is available here.

Pilot region Bulgarian Rhodope Mountains: mitigation options for energy poverty

The project partner Black Sea Energy Research Centre (BSERC) has been giving advice to 10 municipalities in the Rhodope Mountains on options to mitigate energy poverty issues. A joint pellet purchase is planned in some of the municipalities. Recently, two pre-feasibility studies were made. The result was that in both cases a fuel switch from old firewood/coal ovens to modern firewood ovens is beneficial under current conditions. More information on those activities is available here.

Pilot region Primorsko-Goranska County / Croatia: open house event

The project partner Energy Institute Hrvoje Požar (EIHP) recently organized an open house event on the island of Mali Losinj. The house owner presented the interested visitors a solar PV plant including a battery storage. This is an energy supply solution that is suited for high cooling needs during summer, e.g. for private house-owners that rent out flats in their house. More information on the open house event is available here.

Take action despite any current limitations

If households have an old, currently expensive heating system that they would like to replace sooner rather than later, it is advisable to at least put yourself on a waiting list for boiler replacement (also in the hope of better conditions in the future). REPLACE offers a consumer-friendly, easy-to-understand decision-making aid as to which heating system is the most favourable in each individual case. Several counselling modules are available for a smooth decision-making.

For a first step, the Heating System’s Matrices show clearly and easy to understand which system and technology suits a home best. In the current situation, it is firstly particularly important that one or two technically applicable and suitable solutions for renewable heat supply are chosen when replacing the existing heating system. For this purpose, the easy-to-understand heating matrix in traffic light mode shows which renewable heating systems are well suited for which building type.

In the next step, households can economically assess their own heating replacement project, by using the Replace Your Heating System Calculator. In three steps, users get directly to the result based on their own heating demand, the type of system installed, and after selecting locally available/possible fuel/energy supply options. The result shows only climate-friendly, energy supply independent heating systems. Their total annual heating costs and cost savings as well as CO2 savings compared to the existing heating system are displayed. The tool runs without prior knowledge on the basis of economic default values and available investment subsidies of the selected region. Users also have the option of entering their own project-specific data (investment, subsidies, fuel prices, maintenance and repair costs etc.) for each technology considered. This also allows users to compare real offers from installers or manufacturers.

In a further step, households can find more information on their preferred clean heating systems in the REPLACE Heating Replacement Handbooks. One handbook is aimed at end customers, another at professionals, and guides the user through the process of a heating system replacement. Finally, REPLACE Best Practice Examplesare available, showing realised examples from eight European countries, ranging from Western, to Central, and South-Eastern European examples.

However, it is advisable for households to consult an independent energy advisor, if possible, before making a final investment decision. If – after consulting a competent energy advisor – they have paid attention to the principle of “energy efficiency first” and finally decided on a competent installer or manufacturer with experience in the dimensioning and implementation of high-quality heating appliances, they are best equipped to realize a project that will make their home independent and price-resilient even in uncertain times.