Workflow for strategic heating & cooling planning

Below is a suggested workflow for strategic heating and cooling (H&C) planning. No two systems are the same, and individual actors can approach it in different ways.

The workflow is the basis for Act!onHeat's Support Facility.

1) Vision, commitment and mobilisation:

The first step is for political and technical decision-makers to develop a vision and common objectives on heating and cooling (H&C) in correspondence to their local environmental targets (e.g. climate, air quality) in line with national and EU targets, economic (e.g. circular) and/or social targets (e.g. energy poverty). This is about setting the direction together with local actors and stakeholders on: where do we want to go, what do we want to achieve by when, and so on. Workshop formats embedded in a transparent, participatory process are suitable for this. The main outcome of this step is a common vision and understanding about the whole process.

2) H&C working group / Stakeholder group:

The second step is to set up a working group on H&C planning, which should be formally recognised within the local authority and suitably resourced. This can be done, for example, within the scope of responsibility of the urban planning department, as the process can be anchored here as a cross-sectional task. In any case, it must be ensured that i) cooperation with relevant municipal and external units takes place and ii) the group's competences are broad enough to actively influence the development of H&C within the municipality, e.g. by being able to influence the design of H&C in the development of new building and refurbishment zones. This step consists of two key tasks:

  • Defining roles and responsibilities: Determination of who is responsible for which organisational and operational tasks i.e. who coordinates H&C planning (and engages with policymakers), who provides technical support, data and information, etc. This step does not necessarily have to be completed at this point, as it may be necessary to define new responsibilities, change responsibilities, etc. in the course of the process.
  • Engaging stakeholders: This has two objectives. Firstly, to carry out stakeholder analysis and identify the relevant stakeholders and build on this to establish stakeholder management. Secondly, to form a stakeholder group, which is consulted during the work process to get feedback and agree on possible courses of action.

The core outcomes of step two are thus a working group on H&C planning and a stakeholder group for consultation.

Steps three, four and five are technical steps that should be coordinated by the working group on H&C planning.

3) Inventory and potentials:

Step three is about describing the initial situation: where is H&C consumed and in what quantities, how is it produced, where is the potential for renewable energy, what is the state of consumers (e.g. the renovation status of the buildings), etc.?

4) Zoning:

In step four, the aim is to define sub-areas and neighbourhoods with special characteristics that are to be supported particularly intensively with measures for a climate-neutral H&C supply. For example, these may include expansion areas for district heating or areas in which particularly intensive renovation is to be carried out. Step four is closely interlinked with step five, in the sense that both steps are iterative. For example, the designation of areas can be the result of a "technical" scenario analysis.

5) Scenarios:

Step five involves developing and narrowing down technical scenarios that can lead to the realisation of the main objectives defined in step one. This is a technical step in the sense that expertise in energy system modelling is a starting point (e.g. through the use of tools such as Hotmaps), but not exclusively so. It is advisable to seek the expertise of the stakeholder group during the development of the scenarios in order to adapt the development to local conditions. The outcome of this step should be a set of technical scenarios that can then be used to develop a H&C transition strategy and influence planning policy requirements in step six.

6) H&C transition strategy:

Step six is about agreeing on a strategy with milestones, comparable to a roadmap, and supporting the development of spatial planning policies to help implement the roadmap through private development and investment. The scenarios from step five form the basis of this step and will typically involve workshop discussions with stakeholders. The outcome of step six is a strategy in the form of a roadmap with strategic goals (e.g. increase the renovation rate by X% by 2030) set within the framework of the scenarios that are considered most promising by as many stakeholders as possible.

7) Defining policy & measures:

Step seven aims to underpin the strategy identified in step six with appropriate measures. For example, if the strategic goal is to increase the renovation rate by a certain percentage by 2030, step seven is about finding measures to achieve this. A central role is played by the working group on H&C planning in interaction with the stakeholder group. The working group develops proposals and consults the stakeholder group. Part of this step should explicitly be the identification of projects that have the most potential to be successfully deployed, and that the municipality can actively influence. For example, the expansion of the district heating network in a particular area or the refurbishment of residential buildings in a particular neighbourhood. Measures may also include influencing and engaging with planning policy teams to explore the evidence base that would be needed to support and formally adopt appropriately-worded policies which will help to achieve the strategic aims defined in Step 6. The results of this step are therefore measures and project proposals that help to achieve the strategic goals.

8) Project feasibility:

The project proposals identified in the previous step are checked for feasibility in step eight. Usually, engineering consultancies, technical service providers, etc. are contracted for this. The investigation usually includes a survey of the local conditions and an examination of the technical, economic and legal framework conditions. At this point, the support of tools can be of great help, e.g. by analysing possible district heating expansion areas with THERMOS, or using similar tools to examine the assumptions underlying the H&C arrangements for major development proposals.

9) Project planning:

Detailed planning of the selected projects follows in step nine. So at this point it is already clear that the project is to be carried out. Project planning is thus closely intertwined with implementation, it can also be considered together. This step is usually also outsourced to service providers, ideally to those who subsequently take over the turnkey implementation. However, the municipality should take an active facilitating role where possible, for example, wherever it can help to speed up and facilitate the planning process (e.g. official procedures).

10) Project implementation:

In step ten the projects are implemented, and the municipality, usually represented here by spatial planning, climate change or energy teams, will often take on a coordinating and steering role. E.g. by building partnerships between stakeholders and speeding up administrative processes. The result of this step (as supported by the previous three steps) are implemented projects.

11) Review, report and upscale:

Step eleven takes place in parallel with step seven and the associated steps (8-10). The aim here is to regularly determine whether the measures are working, the funded projects are functioning, etc., and to initiate improvements based on this. If it is foreseeable that the strategic goals cannot be achieved, this step should also help to counteract this.

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This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under grant agreement No 101033706. The sole responsibility for the content of this website lies with the Act!onHeat project and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the European Union.