Transition to a new, sustainable heating supply

The transition to a new, sustainable heating supply is a major, complex task, which will affect all of the districts (some 1,000) within the 145 municipalities in our service area. In 2020, all municipalities must have produced a plan setting out how they intend to wean each district off natural gas. Alliander is assisting in the design of the solution with its knowledge and experience of energy networks in order to avoid suboptimal choices being made and unnecessary costs to society. Together with national, regional and local partners and initiatives, we always look for the best solution for the specific situation. 

New open networks

Alliander sees district heating networks as one of the solutions that can facilitate the heating transition. With these systems, we can make optimum use of the potential of biomass, ground-coupled heat exchangers, aqua-thermal energy, geothermal heat, residual heat from data centres, etc. In 2019, we took steps towards the realisation of the district heating networks, including in municipalities in Noord-Holland, Gelderland, and Overijssel. We work together with initiatives such as Stichting Warmtenetwerk and WarmingUP to develop knowledge.

Zaanstad-Oost heating network

In December 2019, the Netherlands’ first open district heating network, in the eastern part of the municipality of Zaanstad (Zaanstad-Oost), started supplying sustainable and affordable heating Built by Warmtenetwerk Zaanstad B.V., this network uses residual heat from various sources, including a new local biomass plant. A heating plan has been put together for Zaanstad-Oost to support the development of a sustainable heating network.

Greening the district heating networks in Amsterdam

Together with municipal authorities, housing associations, energy suppliers, and water companies, we explored the possibilities of making 2,000 homes in the borough of Nieuw-West natural gas-free using a district heating network to which various sources would be connected. A district heating network that makes use of ground-coupled heat exchangers is being built in the district of Buiksloterham. For each district, together with partners and residents, we look for solutions that best suit the wishes, needs and possibilities in the district. Attention is paid to networks that use, for example, heat from surface water and sewers. In the Middenmeer and Amstel III districts, plans are being drawn up for the build of future district heating networks that use residual heat from nearby data centres.

Twente district heating network

In Hengelo, the Decentrale Energiecentrale (DEC) power plant was commissioned to supply energy to the ROC van Twente regional training centre/community college and more than 500 homes in Hengelo. The DEC power plant uses residual heat from Nouryon’s salt production process. The ambition is to eventually provide 5,000 homes and 500,000 square metres of business premises with industrial residual heat from the region. 

Preparing for new networks

In collaboration with local partners such as municipalities and housing associations, Firan is exploring further options for sustainable heating solutions at various locations in the Netherlands. In 2019, this resulted in various new studies and partnerships in the municipalities of Lingewaard, Wageningen, Arnhem, and elsewhere. 

Second round of ‘testing grounds’ announced

Twenty-seven Dutch municipalities are conducting a test on weaning a district off natural gas. These municipalities received a contribution from the government to make existing homes and buildings natural gas-free – or to ensure that they are ready to become natural gas-free – using a district-oriented (‘test bed’) approach. In our service area, this concerns districts in Amsterdam, Katwijk, Nijmegen, Noordoostpolder, Purmerend, Vlieland, and Wageningen. These test beds provide insight into what is involved in a gradual transition from natural gas to a sustainable alternative. To give more municipalities the opportunity to gain such experience, the second round for applying for a test bed started in December 2019.

Hydrogen pilots

At Alliander we see the potential of sustainably produced hydrogen, and we are taking into account that this will become part of the energy supply of the future. Accordingly, we want to learn what the large-scale production of hydrogen from wind and solar power can mean for affordable and reliable network management. After the summer, we started preparing pilots to learn, along with partners, what the use of hydrogen means in practice. In Lochem, for example, we will be providing homes with hydrogen instead of natural gas. And in the province of Gelderland, we are starting a pilot in a business park for the local production of green hydrogen. At a substation in Oterleek (Noord-Holland), we are set to launch a pilot, together with partners, to convert renewable energy into hydrogen. The same is being done in collaboration with the solar farm in Oosterwolde (Friesland). This could offer a solution during periods of high demand on the grid. The energy produced can be stored as hydrogen and later converted into electricity so that not all electricity needs to be fed into the grid immediately.