These two words have been coupled a lot to talk about the transition to sustainable societies with the EU Green Deal or in the context of the recovery from the global pandemic. They define the aspirations of cities and their citizens, combining two concepts that could seem incompatible in the current context. They are also at the heart of the discussions on the future of district heating and cooling (DHC) when addressing decarbonisation.

Photo by Taylor Vick on Unsplash

Another point of intersection of these terms is waste heat recovery from data centres. A source of heat that could help DHC increase its sustainability and benefit the data centre sector too. In the context of increased EU climate and energy targets, decarbonising heating and cooling will entail more energy efficiency and renewable inclusion. It will also require greater integration within the energy system which means exploiting synergies. Recovering waste heat from data centre does just that: by providing cooling to data centres, and in return extracting heat that can be used in nearby buildings, both data centres and DHC are more efficient and greener.

An increasing number of projects are coming off the ground in cities: from Helsinki to Dublin and Odense (see short list of projects in the paper), but there are still challenges. When considering the potential of urban waste heat and data centre heat in particular[1], it appears key to investigate measures that could further enable the recovery and use of waste heat at the EU, national and local levels. Thus, a group of stakeholders explored the available best practice for waste heat recovery. There was a first workshop in March, followed by a second in June 2020 and the publication of two papers.

Photo by Tapio Haaja on Unsplash

The work continued this year, specifically on waste heat from data centres. DHC and data centres values chains, as well as researchers and cities gathered virtually to discuss proposals to enable more waste heat recovery, in the context of the upcoming proposal to revise the EU Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Directives, as part of the Fit for 55 legislative Package of the European Commission (expected on 14 July 2021).

Out of a workshop that took place at the end of January came a recommendation paper that was published in early June. The paper covers various key aspects of waste heat recovery from data centres such as financing and de-risking, energy planning, capacity building or standards and refers to existing and planned examples of projects:

  1. Support District Heating development and modernisation
  2. Better recognise waste heat from data centres in the EU framework
  3. Foster cooperation, planning and empower the different waste heat actors
  4. Boost skill training and capacity building
  5. Integrate waste heat in standard and sectoral guidelines for data centres

This dialogue and cooperation are just a start; the hope is to keep on exchanging to raise awareness and set-up a favourable environment to recover waste heat.

📥Download the paper – See the paper on EHP’s website | on LinkedIn | on Twitter

If you would like to know more or support this initiative, please contact Pauline Lucas –

[1] ReUseHeat project report “Accessible Urban Waste Heat”

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