Gita Subramony, ERS, for Zondits
Currently, 90% of the homes in Amsterdam use natural gas to provide heat. City Lab takes a look at how the Netherlands’ capital is planning on moving away from natural gas as a heat source. The city is planning on switching buildings over to a district heating system, starting with public housing. This type of system will remove the need for natural gas boilers at each building and will enable the use of waste heat collected from industrial facilities to be utilized. For additional heating capacity, buildings can also use heat pumps and solar water heaters. The move to a centralized district heating system will allow the Netherlands to rely less on Russian natural gas.
Why Amsterdam Is Giving Up on Natural Gas
City Lab, November 18, 2016
By 2050, Amsterdam hopes to put its gas-heated days behind it. In a city where natural gas warms 90 percent of all homes and contributes 30 percent of all carbon emissions, removing all those boilers won’t be easy—but it could very well be worth it.
From here, the deadline might seem far away, but the journey to that target is beginning right now. This week, the city announced that in 2017, 10,000 public housing units will have their gas supplies removed, and new neighborhoods in the city won’t have natural gas as an option either.
So what will heat Amsterdam in the future? The overarching answer is district heating, derived from a number of sources. By 2020, 102,000 Amsterdam homes will have switched from heat created in their homes to heat created at a central facility and supplied by a pipeline. While it requires a network of heavily insulated hot water pipes to be installed, district heating systems save considerable energy in the long run by creating a single generating point where fuel is burned. This creates efficiencies of scale that ultimately make the same amount of fuel go further.
Even if this heat were to be generated by natural gas, heating water centrally and piping it to heaters, kitchens, and bathrooms would produce far fewer carbon emissions than burning gas in each home. But in a general move against the fuel, Amsterdam is already trying to find alternative heat sources, notably waste heat from industry. Already, 70,000 of the city’s homes are warmed with water heated at a central waste incinerator. The plan is to roll this concept out further to tap into other sources of waste heat.
The plans are not all working toward greater centralization, however. Some heat pumps are being planned to keep homes warm on the new artificial islands Amsterdam has been constructing in the IJmeer lake. Some homes are also being fitted with solar water heaters, which will ultimately be able to feed unused hot water back into the wider network to generate income for the homeowner.