Heating sector to pool forces and supply affordable, sustainable heating

Published: 13 December 2019

Gas supplies are to be eliminated from the built environment as part of the Climate Agreement. Heat networks are one of the solutions here. The challenge is to deliver sustainable heating in existing buildings in a cost-effective way. In addition, the pace of implementation needs to increase in view of the major challenges facing the Netherlands. A consortium of parties active in the entire sector, from heat source to customer, has set up an alliance to achieve these goals.

The Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO) has announced that the innovative sustainable heating collective WarmingUP will receive a subsidy amounting to 9.3 million euros as part of the Long-Term Mission-Driven Innovation Programme (MMIP). With the investment of €9.5 million by the alliance partners themselves, the total funding available will amount to €18.8 million.


A range of actors are involved in the integrated heating chain from source to customer. System and process innovations are needed to design, install and manage all heat supplies more efficiently. The heating collective WarmingUP was set up to develop these innovations in a coordinated way and at a faster pace.


WarmingUP, managed by TNO, can collectively address issues relating to upscaling, cost reduction and sustainability in an integrated way, and develop the relevant solutions.

The main goal of WarmingUP is to develop collective heating systems that are affordable, sustainable, reliable, practical and socially acceptable. It means, for example, that new knowledge can be used to combine sustainable heat sources with different temperatures and volumes in smart ways. The aim is also to develop the knowledge required for the realisation of large-scale thermal storage systems and their integration in heat networks. For example, research is focusing on where and at what cost heat can be extracted by using aquathermal or geothermal energy systems. Finally, the consortium is focusing on the development of new forms of collaboration and financing, as well as new ways of generating public support.

Innovation plan for sustainable heat

In order to achieve these goals, an innovation plan has been drawn up consisting of 32 projects that have been grouped in six related themes:

  • Design and management of heat networks, system integration and cascading (theme 1), methods for constructing these networks (theme 2) and driving demand (theme 6);
  • Sustainable sources and seasonal storage – aquathermal energy (theme 3), geothermal energy (theme 4) and heat storage (theme 5);
  • Social integration of collective heating systems (theme 6).

The research institutes TNO, Deltares, KWR Water Research and Delft University of Technology are directing these themes. Deltares is the co-theme leader for theme 1 and the theme leader for themes 2 and 3. In WarmingUP, Deltares will work on: the smart integration of a range of heat sources (theme 1), reducing the construction costs for heat networks (theme 2), mapping out the potential and effects of the large-scale use of thermal energy from surface water, waste water and drinking water (theme 3), seismic monitoring and effects on groundwater (theme 4), high-temperature storage in the subsurface (theme 5) and social issues relating to the integration of heating systems (theme 6).

Upscaling, reducing costs and achieving sustainability in collective heating systems requires a new way of thinking about heat supplies. During the three-year period, this innovation plan will lay down the foundations for the achievement of the ambitions and the first steps will be taken.


Heating companies: Eneco, Unnatural, HVC, SVP and Vattenfall
Grid companies : Capturam, Enpuls, Firan/Alliander and NetVerder
Parties in the water sector: Rijkswaterstaat, STOWA and the Dutch Association of Regional Water Authorities
Parties in subsurface energy: BodemenergieNL, EBN, Engie, Huisman and Shell
Municipalities and regions: Almere, Amsterdam, Breda, The Hague, Nijmegen, Rotterdam and Utrecht, and the Holland-Rhineland region
Provincial authorities: Limburg and South-Holland
Research organisations: Deltares, Erasmus University Rotterdam, KWR Water Research, Saxion Hogescholen, TNO (lead), Delft University of Technology, Eindhoven University of Technology and Utrecht University
Other participants: De Efteling, Adviesbureau Greenvis, Coöperatie Duurzame Vruchtenbuurt and living lab The Green Village