Capricorn Digital

Revolutionizing the way Gradyent heats buildings

Gradyent revolutionizes the heating of buildings.

Capricorn Partners' portfolio company Gradyent leverages the power of a real-time Digital Twin Platform to manage the growing complexity of district heating networks.

Gradyent, a Rotterdam-based technology scale-up has developed a software platform to enable network managers to operate heating networks in a smarter, data-driven way. With the help of physics-based models and AI, data from IoT sensors in the network, digital meters in buildings and weather data are combined to make a digital copy of the physical heating system. This digital copy (digital twin) is then used to visualize and optimize the network performance.

Capricorn Partners has invested in Gradyent’s growth since 2020 via their Capricorn Digital Growth Fund. Learn more about why Gradyent’s solution is key for the large-scale adoption of energy-efficient district heating networks to heat buildings.

What are heating networks?

Instead of relying on individual gas boilers to heat our water and buildings, it is much more environmentally friendly to use heat from centrally available sustainable heat sources and distribute it through a heating network of insulated pipes to hundreds of residential, office or other buildings. Hot water or steam is the medium through which the heat is transported. To minimize heat loss during transportation, it is better to consume the heat in surrounding buildings (as an energy community).

Sustainable heat sources are diverse: geothermal heat, waste heat from data centers, co-generated heat from (renewable) electricity production or rest heat captured from industrial processes, such as chemical plants (rather than releasing it into the atmosphere).

In short, heating networks are a key driver of sustainable heating, as they unlock more sustainable heating sources.

Gradyent’s benefits include a reduction of up to

0 15 %
in heat loss
0 10 %
in CO2 emissions
0 5 %
in fuel costs

Where are heating networks being used?

Already in the 19th century, cities like Hamburg and New York put the first heating networks into operation (source).

In the 20th century, heating networks became very popular in the Soviet Union, China and Japan. Today, former Soviet Union countries like Poland, Estonia, Lithuania, and Slovakia rely heavily on heating networks for their heat generation (source).

Western Europe was historically slower to adopt heating networks. However, by the end of the 20th century, progressive regions such as Scandinavia have been quick to implement them, closely followed by the Netherlands and the DACH region. Many European countries are planning significant network investments.

In Helsinki, for example, already 90% of buildings use district heating. In China, strong urbanization targets from the government are also boosting the district's energy demand. Latest estimates by Tsinghua University BERC state that the total amount of floor area covered by district heating is expected to increase by 55% over the period 2015-2030, leading to significantly larger district heating systems (Source: IEA).

Heating networks are growing in complexity

Heating networks are complex systems to manage, as the water temperature and pressure in the pipes need to be monitored and optimized to minimize heat losses and provide predictable conditions in the buildings. Generally, 20% to 30% of the heat is lost in heating networks as the hot water or steam flow through the pipes, mainly due to poorly insulated pipes, and poorly configured temperature and pressure set points.

Through lack of visibility and understanding of how the network responds, network operators often set the temperature too high, to ensure the water is sufficiently hot upon arrival in the buildings. This is an inefficient use of the provided heat (which is increasingly more painful in the context of high energy prices).

Recently, we have witnessed district heating networks growing exponentially across the globe, in number, size as well as in complexity. While adding more and different types of heat sources is economically and environmentally beneficial, it makes it more complex to operate the network efficiently, due to the different characteristics and limitations of the different heat sources.

Furthermore, it has become more important to carefully balance the consumption by buildings in order to shave the peaks in demand (called dynamic load balancing).

All these factors are making it overly complex for network engineers to manage in a purely manual way.

Saving energy is more important than ever. District heating systems lose between 20 and 30% of energy during distribution. Our Digital Twin solution helps customers all across Europe reduce these losses.
Hervé Huisman, CEO Gradyent

Gradyent leverages the power of a real-time Digital Twin to address this growing complexity

Deploying the Gradyent platform enables heating network managers to achieve significant benefits such as reducing heat loss by up to 15%, cutting CO2 emissions by 10%, lowering fuel costs by 5%, and reducing CAPEX by 20%, all while enhancing the security of end-user heat supply. Currently, Gradyent is active in 7 countries and around 20 cities, such as Vienna, Helsinki, and Rotterdam. For example, in Helsinki (Finland), Gradyent helps Helen, the utility company supplying 90% of the city’s buildings with space and water heating, to optimize and decarbonize their heating grid by predicting network behavior and providing insights into future circumstances, for example to support phasing out the coal-powered plants.

As Gradyent is on a quest to help 1,000 heating networks to accelerate the energy transition to this more sustainable way to heat our buildings, the company recently raised €10 million in funding from the venture funds Eneco Ventures, Capricorn Partners, Helen Ventures and Energiiq. Capricorn Partners is a proud investor in Gradyent, a great example of how to leverage smart software to facilitate the energy transition.

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