The Regional Structure for Heat (RSW) offers a great opportunity to reflect, as a region, on the implementation of a suitable structure for heat across municipalities. Sometimes, however, these opportunities are overlooked, and the Regional Structure for Heat is often neglected within the greater scope of the Regional Energy Strategy (RES). Our colleagues Jade Oudejans and Sanne de Boer find that this is truly a missed opportunity. What is the role of the RSW, and how can it be applied in your region?
The Regional Structure for Heat (RSW) is a new concept within the context of the implementation of the Dutch Climate Agreement. The RSW has been introduced within the Regional Energy Strategy to offer a space for the assessment and implementation of sustainable heat sources. This assessment is fundamental, as all households in the Netherlands are transitioning to heating sources other than natural gas. The different heating alternatives and heating sources have to be allocated in a suitable way. This is where the RSW comes in.
From a practical point of view, we see how municipalities and regions often struggle with the development and implementation of the RSW. Others have not yet started, because they are waiting to receive more precise guidelines. But the deadline for the RES concept, scheduled for 01 October 2020 is getting closer. How to proceed, and how to shape a Regional Structure for Heat? At the present moment, a sample implementation plan is not yet available. But we know very well what the Regional Structure for Heat should entail:
- An inventory of current and expected supply and demand for heat, heat sources and infrastructure;
- An assessment framework for the deployment of large regional energy sources and their allocation and planning close to the deadline.
Process and stakeholders
It is important to undertake a careful process to develop a collectively owned strategy for the RSW. The inventory of supply and demand for heat is a relatively straightforward task, but it requires some research in order to obtain the correct data on residual heat from businesses or the Environment Services.
Setting up an assessment framework requires a larger harmonisation effort. It is important to register the vision on heat of the different stakeholders within the RES. Secondly, the parties that operate in the heat sector within the region should be involved as well. Possible examples could be suppliers, parties that own a heat source inside their property, or energy cooperatives that want to take an active role in the heat transition as well.
The different stakeholders provide insight in the various interests of the region. These interests are further elaborated in the assessment framework. Next to technical-financial aspects such as the distance to and from the heat source, the temperature regimes and the affordability of the heat source (which have an impact only on the business case), the assessment framework also deals with concepts such as the ‘sustainability and continuity of the heat sources’ and the ‘transition comfort’. These last two concepts reflect the experience of the residents of the region. It is logical, considering that the transition is possible only if the community is on board.
Roadmap for sustainable heating versus Regional Structure for Heat
We are often asked the question: ‘How is the RSW connected to the roadmap for sustainable heating?’ The RSW and the roadmap are linked, in the sense that the results of one provide input for the other, as explained in the example below. The RSW provides information about the regional heat sources. This knowledge can be then employed to draft a roadmap for sustainable heating. The roadmap establishes a preferred working direction for the heating infrastructure (heating solutions) per neighbourhood: for example an individual all-electric solution (electricity grid) or a collective supply (heating network).
Roadmap or RSW?
With the information on available heat sources that the RSW provides, it is possible to plan the implementation of the collective supply. The information contained in the RES also indicates all possible sustainable electricity options for the individual solution. This raises a million-dollar-question: what comes first, the roadmap or the RSW? The answer is: it doesn’t matter. In fact, the RSW can always be updated on the basis of the roadmap; this sets an interactive and iterative process in motion, whereby the various heating options become more and more tangible.
Uncertainty about heat sources
There is still considerable uncertainty about heat sources such as geothermal energy. Sources whose exact size and utility cannot yet be ascertained cannot be included either. This uncertainty will fade in the course of the coming years. It is therefore essential to keep adjusting the RSW in order to align it to the roadmap for sustainable heating, to ensure a timely planning and accurate employment of the different heat sources. We move from the general to the specific. It is particularly important to establish a common assessment framework that can be used in the process of evaluation of the heat sources.
In short: in order to work with the RSW, it is vital to make the process and the different roles as clear as possible, and to start by setting up a shared assessment framework. This ensures that all regional interests are secured and that real arrangements on the allocation of the heat sources can be made close to deadline. This will be formalised only in the RES 2.0 in 2030, but that date is actually closer than it may seem.
Do you have further questions on the RSW or would you like to know more? Feel free to contact us.