District heating: Digitalization takes the lead in decarbonization 

How a smart solution is making district heating network operation more sustainable and saving costs for building owners.

How can cities provide a sustainable source of heating? District heating has long been considered a highly promising solution. Digitalization is now giving heating networks an extra efficiency boost: Swedish firm Cetetherm has developed a smart solution to save power costs for property owners and help heating suppliers optimize their networks.

Buildings are responsible for about 40 percent of global CO2 emissions. Most of these emissions are created by heating and air-conditioning systems that run on non-renewable energy.


Global decarbonization goals can only be met if more renewables can be used for heating and cooling buildings, along with massive improvements in the efficiency of heating and cooling systems.

Heating networks supply buildings with renewable energy

Big hopes are pinned on local and district heating networks. These systems are ideal for many environments, especially cities, because they can be operated with minimal network losses in densely populated areas.


The big advantage of heating networks is that they’re literally “open” to ambient heat as well as to waste heat: for example, from waste incineration plants. This heat can be used to heat urban districts and entire cities using heat pumps. 


However, how heating energy is generated isn’t the only important factor in creating a sustainable heating supply. It’s equally vital to ensure that they’re used efficiently. In many buildings today, that still isn’t the case: Rooms are often heated even though no one uses them, or the heating systems aren’t optimally configured and no one notices.

Our new digital strategy enables our customers to reduce the climate footprint. 
Tomas Haglund, CEO at Cetetherm

Digital district heating substation makes heat flows transparent

This is where Swedish company Cetetherm comes in. Cetetherm specializes in developing heating and cooling systems for the district heating market. It has found a solution for making district heating use more transparent. The key lies in digitalizing the district heating substation, the link between the network and the customer’s heat distribution system: Cetetherm’s substations can be connected via the Internet of Things (IoT). This means that district heating use can be monitored and optimized on an online platform, the Cetetherm Optimizer, regardless of location.


“Our new digital strategy enables our customers to optimize energy usage, have full access to the heating system and reduce the climate footprint,” says Tomas Haglund, CEO at Cetetherm.

Energy savings of up to 15 percent per building

Cetetherm estimates that its solution will reduce energy consumption in buildings by 10 to 15 percent without compromising user comfort.


Building owners and facility managers can remotely monitor the performance of their heating systems in real time. That’s possible because the digital district heating substation transmits the data measured on-site to the cloud. The information is analyzed using artificial intelligence (AI), which makes automatic adjustments as needed. This guarantees optimized operation at all times. If there are any irregularities, the system will alert the maintenance team. These ongoing predictive analyses can enable system maintenance to be planned at an early stage.

Greater transparency for network operators

Energy utilities can use the Cetetherm Optimizer to access their customers’ installed devices and heating systems and monitor them remotely. This makes their networks more transparent and reduces their operating costs. The solution also provides a basis for improving customer interaction and support management.


The open application protocol interface (API) allows energy utilities to easily integrate the Cetetherm Optimizer into their production and business systems. They can then better control their customers’ heating systems and optimize energy across a cluster of connected buildings. For example, implementing lower return temperatures and flow rates can help improve network performance. 

The right partners make digitalization a success 

Cetetherm firmly believes that digitalization is the key to a sustainable energy supply system. The company is therefore working intensively to update its product portfolio, with a focus on collaboration: “There was an ongoing dialog within Cetetherm on how to digitalize the portfolio. We agreed that we shouldn’t have to re-invent any wheels: We want to collaborate with the leading market players,” says Patrick Isacson, Commercial Product Manager at Cetetherm.


Cetetherm has been working with Siemens for decades, and Siemens was able to support development of the Optimizer with its technology. Cetetherm’s smart substation utilizes the functionalities of Climatix IC: This Siemens solution facilitates remote monitoring and smart diagnostic functions, including the AI algorithms for data analysis. The customizable user interface from Climatix IC was modified for this project to suit Cetetherm’s requirements.

Intelligence and interconnection are two very important capabilities in digitalizing the energy sector, and we’ve embedded both in this concept.
Patrick Isacson, Commercial Product Manager at Cetetherm

“Siemens Climatix IC has an open API – application protocol interface – that we could integrate the way we wanted,” Isacson explains. “Its design meant it was easy for us to integrate Climatix IC into our own cloud system.”


The result of this collaboration is a smart heating solution that meets the needs of energy utilities, building owners, and tenants – while making a contribution to a more sustainable energy system.


Cetetherm is already working on expanding its digital portfolio: It will soon be possible to retrofit existing Cetetherm district heating substations. The roadmap also includes plans to connect heat interface units (HIUs), heat pumps, and ventilation systems to the Optimizer in the future. 

Meeting future demand

As Europe moves toward full decarbonization of district heating and cooling networks by 2050, there’s no doubt that digital solutions like the Cetetherm Optimizer will have an important role to play. “Intelligence and interconnection are two very important capabilities in digitalizing the energy sector, and we’ve embedded both in this concept,” Isacson affirms.


The Cetetherm Optimizer ensures that energy utilities and building owners are ready for future developments in energy management, because this smart district heating substation is ideally suited for system temperature management and the use of hybrid heating solutions. And because the heating and electricity industries are growing closer and closer as part of the energy transition, the system can also be utilized for load-balancing and peak-shaving in the electricity grid, which will make a valuable contribution to a sustainable energy system.

Sustainable heating and cooling

Cetetherm provides high-tech product expertise in heating and cooling systems for the district energy and collective boiler room markets. It’s one of the leading district heating substation providers in Europe.

Cetetherm was founded over 60 years ago and is now part of Nibe Group. It has production facilities in Sweden, France, and the Czech Republic.

For more information, see www.cetetherm.com

Picture credits: Cetetherm, Getty Images

January 24, 2022

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