Biomass District Heating

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research

What it is

Biomass district heating involves using biomass fuels, such as wood chips, pellets, or agricultural residues, to generate heat for multiple buildings or communities through a network of pipes. This technology offers a sustainable and efficient way to provide heating, especially in colder climates.

Impact on climate action

Biomass District Heating under Biomass for Heating & Power advances climate action by replacing fossil fuel-based heating with renewable biomass sources. By reducing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting sustainable energy use, this innovation contributes to decarbonizing heating systems, mitigating climate change impacts, and fostering a greener energy transition.


  • Biomass Boilers or CHP Systems: Biomass boilers or CHP systems generate heat from biomass fuels.
  • District Heating Network: A network of insulated pipes distributes hot water or steam from the central heating plant to buildings and homes.
  • Heat Substations: Heat substations in buildings transfer heat from the district heating network to the building’s heating system.
  • System Design and Optimization: Biomass district heating systems need to be carefully designed and optimized to ensure efficient heat generation and distribution.

TRL : 7-8

Prominent Innovation themes

  • High-Efficiency Biomass Boilers and CHP Systems: Innovations in biomass combustion and gasification technologies are improving the efficiency and emissions performance of biomass boilers and CHP systems used in district heating.
  • Smart Grid Integration: Biomass district heating systems are being integrated with smart grids to optimize energy flows and improve grid stability.
  • Low-Temperature District Heating Networks: New technologies and designs are enabling the use of lower-temperature water in district heating networks, reducing heat losses and improving efficiency.
  • Sustainable Biomass Sourcing: District heating providers are increasingly focusing on sourcing biomass fuels from sustainably managed forests and agricultural residues.

Other Innovation Subthemes

  • Low-Temperature Network Design
  • Sustainable Biomass Sourcing
  • High-Efficiency Biomass Boilers
  • CHP System Innovations
  • District Heating System Optimization
  • Heat Substation Technology
  • Biomass Fuel Quality Assurance
  • Modular District Heating Solutions
  • Advanced Heat Exchanger Designs
  • Remote Monitoring and Control
  • Decentralized Biomass Heating
  • Energy Storage Integration
  • Heat Pump Integration

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  • Ørsted:
    • Technology Enhancement: Ørsted, formerly known as DONG Energy, is a global leader in renewable energy solutions, including biomass district heating. Their biomass-fired combined heat and power (CHP) plants utilize organic waste materials such as wood chips, agricultural residues, and forestry waste to produce heat and electricity for district heating networks. Ørsted’s CHP plants are equipped with advanced biomass combustion technologies and emissions control systems to ensure efficient and environmentally friendly operation.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: Ørsted stands out for its commitment to sustainability and its extensive experience in biomass energy production. They are known for developing and operating large-scale biomass CHP plants that contribute to decarbonizing heating systems in urban areas. Ørsted’s integrated approach to biomass district heating aligns with their broader mission to transition towards a renewable energy future.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Ørsted serves municipalities, communities, and industrial facilities seeking reliable and sustainable heating solutions. Their biomass district heating projects provide cost-effective and environmentally friendly heat for residential, commercial, and industrial buildings, reducing reliance on fossil fuels and lowering carbon emissions.
  • Fortum:
    • Technology Enhancement: Fortum is a leading energy company with a strong focus on district heating and renewable energy. Their biomass district heating solutions utilize locally sourced biomass fuels to generate heat for urban heating networks. Fortum’s biomass-fired CHP plants are designed for high efficiency and low emissions, incorporating state-of-the-art combustion and heat recovery technologies.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: Fortum stands out for its extensive district heating network and its commitment to utilizing renewable and sustainable energy sources. They have a track record of developing biomass CHP plants and integrating them into existing district heating systems, providing reliable and affordable heat to urban communities. Fortum’s approach to biomass district heating emphasizes environmental responsibility and energy efficiency.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Fortum serves cities, municipalities, and industrial customers in regions where district heating is prevalent. Their biomass district heating projects cater to urban areas with high heat demand, offering a clean and renewable alternative to traditional fossil fuel-based heating systems.
  • Vattenfall:
    • Technology Enhancement: Vattenfall is a leading European energy company that operates biomass district heating plants alongside other renewable energy assets. Their biomass-fired CHP plants utilize sustainable biomass fuels to produce heat and electricity for district heating networks. Vattenfall employs advanced combustion technologies and emissions control systems to ensure efficient and environmentally friendly biomass energy production.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: Vattenfall stands out for its integrated approach to district heating and its commitment to reducing carbon emissions. They have a diverse portfolio of biomass district heating projects across Europe, contributing to the transition towards a more sustainable heating sector. Vattenfall’s expertise in biomass energy complements their broader renewable energy strategy.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Vattenfall serves urban communities, municipalities, and industrial customers in regions where district heating infrastructure exists. Their biomass district heating projects provide clean and reliable heat to residential, commercial, and industrial buildings, supporting local economies and environmental goals.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  1. Technical University of Munich (TUM):
    • Research Focus: TUM is a leading institution in research on Biomass District Heating, focusing on the development and optimization of district heating systems powered by biomass fuels such as wood chips, pellets, and agricultural residues.
    • Uniqueness: Their research encompasses the design, modeling, and simulation of biomass-fired boilers, heat exchangers, and distribution networks to improve energy efficiency, thermal performance, and operational reliability of district heating infrastructure. They also investigate advanced combustion technologies, emissions control strategies, and biomass supply chain management to ensure environmental sustainability and compliance with regulatory standards.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work have applications in residential, commercial, and industrial heating sectors. By leveraging biomass resources for district heating, TUM’s research contributes to reducing carbon emissions, enhancing energy security, and promoting local renewable energy utilization in urban and rural communities.
  2. Chalmers University of Technology (Sweden):
    • Research Focus: Chalmers University of Technology is at the forefront of research on Biomass District Heating, leveraging its expertise in energy systems engineering, bioenergy technology, and sustainable urban development to advance the integration of biomass-based heating solutions into district heating networks.
    • Uniqueness: Their research involves the development of innovative biomass combustion technologies, thermal storage systems, and district heating network optimization methods to maximize the efficiency, flexibility, and reliability of biomass district heating systems. They also explore synergies between biomass heat production, combined heat and power generation, and district cooling to enhance overall energy system performance and resilience.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work find applications in urban planning, building energy retrofits, and renewable energy policy. By promoting biomass district heating as a viable alternative to fossil fuel-based heating, Chalmers University’s research supports the transition to a low-carbon and sustainable heating infrastructure in cities and regions worldwide.
  3. Aalto University (Finland):
    • Research Focus: Aalto University conducts innovative research on Biomass District Heating, leveraging its multidisciplinary expertise in energy engineering, environmental science, and systems analysis to address technical, economic, and environmental challenges associated with biomass utilization for district heating.
    • Uniqueness: Their research encompasses techno-economic assessments, life cycle analyses, and stakeholder engagement activities to evaluate the feasibility, sustainability, and social acceptance of biomass district heating projects. They also explore novel business models, policy instruments, and regulatory frameworks to incentivize investments in biomass-based heating infrastructure and foster local innovation ecosystems.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work have applications in rural development, bioenergy valorization, and climate change mitigation. By advancing biomass district heating as a key pillar of sustainable energy systems, Aalto University’s research contributes to achieving national and international targets for renewable energy deployment, energy efficiency improvement, and greenhouse gas emissions reduction.

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

Biomass district heating is a well-established technology and is widely implemented in many countries, particularly in Europe and North America. For example, in Denmark, over 50% of households are connected to district heating networks, with biomass being the primary fuel source.