Heating and cooling planning: a “must have” for all cities!

Heating and cooling goes hand to hand with urban planning.

Heating and cooling (H&C) is a major topic for the decarbonisation of the European energy system, and it goes hand to hand with urban planning. No surprise that the Energy Transition Partnership of the Urban Agenda for the EU is focusing on both planning and H&C in its action plan released last April. Together with some of our members, such as the city of Udine, we have been actively involved in this partnership making sure local needs and interests stay high on the agenda.

The Urban Agenda for the EU: working together for better cities

The Urban Agenda for the EU is an initiative that aims at integrating cities both in the development and in the implementation process of the urban policy. Energy transition is one of its 12 priority themes: the EU wants to support the energy transition, and to provide an improved regulatory, funding and networking structure. The Energy Transition Partnership involves the European Commission, two Member States (France and Germany), several cities and regions, city networks and other stakeholders. It is led by the three cities of Gdańsk, London, and Roeselare.

The Energy Transition Partnership action plan, released in April 2019, is structured in 5 action areas:

  • Creation of a “Financing for District Energy” task group,
  • Maximising use of waste heat in cities,
  • Guidance on Energy Master-planning for cities,
  • “Deployment desks” for city retrofitting,
  • Closer co-operation with EU bodies to promote energy transition funding.

Nothing revolutionary, but these actions are key to move the energy transition forward and three of them are linked to heating and cooling planning.  

Heating and cooling planning: reconnecting urban and energy policies

Heating and cooling planning presents several advantages, one of the first being that it reconnects urban policy to energy policy. For instance when the city of Caen started to work on its energy master plan, politicians and city officers realised they were building a new commercial area not far from an existing district heating and cooling (DHC) network but no one had considered the possibility to link the two. They launched an explorative study that proved it was more cost effective to supply the area with heat from DHC than to expand the gas network and the city changed the plans in order to allow that.

A way to ensure a shared energy transition

Heating and cooling planning at city level also helps to keep control of energy installations on the territory and ensure the local energy transition has the common interest at its centre. As some research shows, DHC developers tend to focus on high-energy-demand areas in order to maximize financial returns, minimise payback times and reduce risks. It is likely to limit future development of cheaper citywide systems, and thus economies of scale and carbon reduction.

The city Roeselare (Belgium) decided to change its internal procedure following the approval of a new Flemish law that gave DHC operators the right to use the public domain to build and maintain pipes. This law states that Flemish city councils have only 45 days to discuss the permit, with no answer meaning automatic approval! In addition, cities need very serious motive to deny it, such as a conflicting heating and cooling planning at city level. In order to have a swift reaction, the city council of Roeselare, reuniting once a month, delegated the permit delivery to a restricted group of city councillors that meets every week. As Bert Vanhuyse from Roeselare’s city administration, told us: “This should hold back ‘fortune-seekers’ and also give us the instrument to steer the planned development of DHC in our city. Today, the number of players in this sector is limited, but who knows who will be interested in this strategic energy-transition infrastructure in the future?”

New tools to support heating and cooling planning

If your city does not have a plan yet, we have a good news for you: Energy Cities is involved in HOTMAPS, an EU funded project to support heating and cooling planning at local level! Say goodbye to expensive consultancy fees: developed by European leading research institutions and already tested by 7 Energy Cities members, the HOTMAPS toolbox is free, easy to use and accessible online. We are organising trainings in different parts of Europe and registrations are now open! Discover the software and let us know if you would like to participate.


Publication date

September 12, 2019