H Heat

United States sitting on a gold mine of excess heat

Feb. 27, 2023
According to Danfoss, excess heat is the world’s largest untapped source of energy but little of its potential is being utilized.

A new white paper from Danfoss highlights the vast untapped potential of excess heat as a source of energy and calls on policy makers across the world to accelerate the use of excess heat across all sectors.

Excess heat can be reused to supply a factory with heat and warm water or exported to neighboring homes and industries through a district-energy system, which supplies heat to consumers via a network of underground pipes carrying hot water, notes Danfoss. Such heat networks can cover a large area or even an entire city or supply a small cluster of local buildings. While the US would need to invest in infrastructure and district heating systems, there is low-hanging fruit in universities and hospital campuses to apply this solution now, they add.

According to Astrid Mozes, president, regions at Danfoss, recycling heat is not only an overlooked measure in the current energy crisis, but also the next frontier of the green transition in the United States. He said, “The United States is sitting on a gold mine of excess heat. Excess heat is the world’s largest untapped source of energy and it is all around us. Using gas or electricity for heating is like using a chainsaw to cut butter, as heating can easily be covered by low-value heating sources such as excess heat."

“Despite this incredible opportunity—we have the most data centers in the world—there are very few initiatives pushing for more efficient use of the vast amounts of wasted energy in the form of excess heat. And this is even though we already have the solutions available to harness heat. We urgently need new policy measures to accelerate the use of excess heat across the US, both so that citizens and businesses can benefit from lower energy costs and to ensure we speed up our progress in the green transition and decarbonize our economy. Let’s make it happen,” added Mozes.

Utilizing excess heat can replace significant amounts of fossil fuels that are otherwise needed to produce heat. Used this way, excess heat can help stabilize the future electricity grid and thereby ease the transition to a green energy system. Yet the potential of excess heat is not even close to being utilized and is virtually ignored in policy circles, per Danfoss.

Reusing excess heat is energy efficiency in its purest form

The whitepaper, entitled "The world’s largest untapped energy source: excess heat," assesses the potential of excess heat as an efficient energy source.

“If we are truly going to harness the potential of excess heat we need to change our perspective on it and begin to consider excess heat as an energy resource instead of waste to be disposed of.  A global push for higher efficiency can help avoid almost 30 million barrels of oil per day,” said Mozes. “One of the first barriers preventing us from reusing excess heat includes the lack of information. But we must also introduce economic incentives, policy measures and prioritization of partnerships between local authorities, energy suppliers and energy sources to help maximize the full potential of excess heat."

Toby Morgan, senior manager, built environment with Climate Group added, "The global energy crisis is a wakeup call to stop wasting energy, and Danfoss is right to call for governments and corporates to seize the enormous potential of excess heat. Now more than ever we need to make better use of the energy we already produce; we simply can’t afford to let it literally escape out the window. Energy-efficiency improvements, like capturing and recycling excess heat, are absolutely critical to lower fossil fuel demand and lower bills.”

The report is available for download here.