How smart cities manage energy for heating and cooling

As the world’s population grows, the challenges of balancing energy consumption and standard of living increases for those in charge of planning our cities across the globe. An Open Access Government report explained how 66% of the world’s population will live in a city by 2050, increasing demand on those tasked with running them to look for solutions when it comes to heating and cooling.

That is one specific challenge that cities are facing in the modern era; how can we manage the increase in population and increased pressure on resources, but also have one eye on global warming too?

We’ve already examined how ‘The Future of Urban Sustainability is Renewable District Energy’, but how does that work in real terms? How are smart cities managing the need for energy going into the new decade?

Gothenburg is a good example with a Smart City Sweden article explaining how 90% of the city’s apartment buildings are connected via a district heating network. For those who are not aware, district heating is a system by which heat and hot water are distributed to residential and commercial properties using heat networks, as opposed to local boilers. It’s accepted that district heating plants can provide better efficiency and drastically reduce carbon emissions when compared to local boilers.

That doesn’t mean that the council own your heating applications and the subsequent problems. Any issue with your appliances in-house is usually still the resident’s responsibility, but it does mean lower energy costs to them. There’s still the usual issues to consider as with any heating system and an article by HomeServe on how to ‘Diagnose Central Heating Problems’ details that all boilers and heating systems should be regularly checked and serviced by a professional. A smart city district heating network is no different, but in this instance, the professional will be knowledgeable on your particular installation and in theory, problems should occur less often as you don’t have an actual boiler to worry about.

District cooling isn’t needed in all countries, but how often do we see extractors turning heat into hot air and effectively wasting energy? With a district cooling system, that won’t happen. Cooling is provided to buildings that need it in a district network by heat pumps essentially rejecting heat from the communal district network, simply passing it on down the line.

Tampere in Finland boasted one of the first carbon-neutral districts in the country when it moved to this system in 2018. The district of Hiedanranta not only has the district heating but manages the environment in each apartment it serves have specific sensors to monitor the heat. Their energy is generated by a Carbofex heat recovery steam generator – just another wonderful innovation within the industry.

Across Europe the technology is rapidly being implemented; it is believed by 2050 the German city of Frankfurt will achieve 100% renewable energy thanks to district energy systems. Nice in France is moving towards 187,000 square metres of housing being powered by a heating and cooling network provided by 90 innovative substations.

With global warming an ever-increasing issue in the world and attention focused firmly on how we can work together to improve the earth’s longevity, smart city technology is providing answers to questions that have long been troubling city leaders and world leaders alike.


Written by Amanda Cowart, independent writer.
Header image (modern elevated heat pipes): A_Lesik.

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