REPLACE Highlight Germany: Field trips to private and municipal heating networks – for imitators and future customers

Heating networks powered by renewable energies can be a good lever for climate protection: In addition to replacing individual heating systems, they supply entire streets with climate-friendly heat. At the same time, they offer the possibility of becoming independent of fluctuating energy prices and oil and gas supplies from abroad, as well as saving money. But how are heating networks planned, built and operated?

During two excursions in spring 2022, interested imitators and future customers were able to gain on-site insight into a total of eight plants. In the densely forested Oberland, they are operated with residual forest wood, or as energy consultant Andreas Scharli from REPLACE project partner Energiewende Oberland stated during the tours, “No tree is cut because we need wood chips. The tree is cut for forest maintenance, harvesting and sawmilling, but not to produce wood chips.”

At the first appointment, four farmers opened the doors of their so-called village heating systems. In addition to their farming operations, they supply their own families and up to twelve neighbouring households with heat from their heating houses. Here they bring in their own forest residues for a woodchip heating system and thus also generate added value for their own farm. Their recommendations for imitators ranged from advice on a good planning office and the need for capable heating engineers to support from a neutral partner such as the Bürgerstiftung Energiewende Oberland, which provides information on questions about subsidies and pricing. The four visits took place in cooperation with the deputy regional farmer.

At a second appointment, it was possible to visit four municipally operated heating networks. In addition to municipal properties such as kindergartens, schools or town halls, they also supply private houses with heat. Interested municipal representatives, woodchip suppliers, future investors, but also private citizens were able to take a look behind the scenes and ask questions, e.g. about the development, operation, sustainable use of energy wood or fine dust. The visits were organised and carried out in cooperation between Energiewende Oberland and the municipal operators. Both excursions met with great interest with a total of 60 participants. On site, the operators and planners of the plants as well as energy consultant Andreas Scharli from Energiewende Oberland provided information.

During the same period, around 60 participants, including mayors, architects and energy consultants, were given an overview of what needs to be considered when planning heating networks at an information event organised by Energiewende Oberland in the EU-funded REPLACE heat transition project.