Expert opinions, TECHNOLOGY

Innovations in Russian heat supply: opportunities, barriers, mechanisms

Heat supply is an important utility industry because the effectiveness of its work affects directly the life of each person, while it provides warmth to the homes and businesses of our country. Moreover, climate change and instability of energy markets are becoming more and more urgent issues, so questions of energy saving, energy efficiency and environmental safety come to the fore. How things are in the industry today, and what is hindering the adoption of new technologies?

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It is no secret that one of the main problems of the Russian thermal power industry is outdated infrastructure. According to the Ministry of Construction, about 30% of heat supply networks are subject to major repair, and in some regions, the depreciation of funds is more than 60%. And, of course, the main local task is their modernization.

Innovation in this area can improve energy efficiency and ensure the environmental safety of the systems and equipment used.

This can reduce power consumption and optimize the use of energy resources, which in the future will reduce costs, reduce the negative impact on the environment and increase competitiveness of both individual enterprises and the entire industry. Unfortunately, funding shortfalls and inconsistency of executive authorities in some regions do not allow implementing large-scale innovative projects. What is worth paying attention to first of all?

Energy saving

This is one of the main tasks worth solving to increase energy efficiency of the industry, because the lion’s share of energy is spent on heating and cooling of buildings, production facilities and infrastructure.

Insulation is one of the proven and effective methods of reduction of power consumption. High-quality thermal insulation helps to preserve heat indoors and prevent it from leaking through walls, roofing and windows.

Modern thermal insulation materials such as mineral wool, polyurethane foam and expanded polystyrene have high thermal insulation characteristics and can reduce significantly power consumption for heating buildings. In addition, improved window structures with energy-saving double-glazed windows and seals also contribute to reducing heat losses. International  energy agency (IEA) estimates, insulation of buildings using the above materials and technologies can lead to a decrease in power consumption for heating up to 30%.

Increasing the energy efficiency of the heat generation system

Traditional heating and cooling systems based on gas or fuel oil are inefficient and costly in terms of energy consumption.

Replacing them with modern energy efficient alternatives can give considerable reduction of power consumption. For example, heat pumps that use energy from the environment to provide heating and cooling, reduce significantly energy consumption. Also it is worth to consider installing software thermostats and intelligent control systems that optimize energy use depending on needs and installed parameters. Thus, the use of heat pumps instead of traditional  heating systems can lead to a reduction in energy consumption by 30-50%.

Combined heat generation systems are another way to increase energy efficiency. In particular, combined production generation of heat and electricity (SGHE) allows simultaneous processes of production of heat and electric power, which increases efficiency of fuel usage.

This reduces losses and improves overall system energy efficiency. The introduction of SGHE can reduce power consumption by 20-40% compared to separate generation.

Renewables shouldn’t be discounted either. These include solar and wind energy for heat and Electricity generation. These are environmentally friendly and efficient options that reduce dependence on traditional energy sources and emissions of greenhouse gases.

Energy consumption monitoring

To improve the energy efficiency of heat generation systems, it is necessary to monitor energy consumption levels and manage energy expenditure.

Implementation of monitoring systems enables analysis of energy use real-time, which helps to identify quickly sources of excess consumption and take measures to eliminate them. Control systems include smart counters, automated control systems and other analytical tools for forecasting and optimizing of energy consumption. Statistically, the implementation of the energy management system on industrial enterprise leads to a decrease in energy consumption by 10-20%.

Human factor

Unfortunately, the level of knowledge and awareness in the field of energy consumption of our population is still quite low. Therefore, education and communication play an important role in shaping culture of energy efficiency. In particular, training of employees and households to energy saving principles and efficient energy use will help significantly reduce energy consumption in everyday processes, and conducting training programs and information campaigns will increase people’s awareness and motivation for effective energy use.

In addition, training programs for employees of enterprises, including seminars on energy saving and practical recommendations for optimal energy use can reduce significantly energy consumption.

Regulation and standardization

The European Union developed regulations a few years ago, establishing requirements for energy efficiency of buildings. These rules help reduce power consumption and contribute to the transition to more sustainable energy system. This experience is worth paying attention to in our country. After all, the establishment of requirements for the energy efficiency of buildings and equipment, as well as the provision of tax incentives and incentives for implementation of energy efficient solutions help to create more efficient and environmentally safe heat supply infrastructure.

The introduction of innovations in Russian heat supply has great potential and presents tremendous opportunities for quality improvement of services provided, reducing energy costs and negative environmental impact. However, to implement these plans, concerted action by the state, business and industry professionals is needed. Without it, as well as without effective support mechanisms, it is impossible to develop innovative potential of heat supply in Russia.

By Oleg Mochalov, heat power engineer, deputy chief engineer of JSC “Far Eastern Generating Company,” developer of innovative systems for control and monitoring of boiler house efficiency

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