Fifth-Generation District Heating and Cooling: The Mijnwater Story

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The Mijnwater district heating and cooling system in Heerlen, the Netherlands, exemplifies the innovation and sustainability potential inherent in modern urban infrastructure. The journey from a local network utilizing a flooded coal mine to a cutting-edge fifth-generation district heating and cooling system serves as an inspiring case study for cities worldwide.

From Coal Mine to Modern Urban Infrastructure

The Mijnwater system began as a local district heating and cooling network using a flooded coal mine as a low-temperature geothermal source. However, it has since evolved into an upgraded, fifth-generation district heating and cooling system.

Today, the Mijnwater system operates a backbone of bidirectional pipes, facilitating the exchange of heating and cooling among a diverse mix of users. These include a data center, supermarket refrigerators, small-scale industrial processes, and a vast array of connected buildings, spanning a total floor area of over 200,000 square meters.

What’s more, the system has been designed to be easily expandable. New users can connect to the bidirectional pipeline with basement heat exchangers, facilitating a seamless integration into the existing infrastructure.

Maximizing Efficiency and Sustainability

This upgraded system’s genius lies in its ability to maximize the use of waste heat and renewable energy sources. As a result, it has managed to cut energy use by 30% compared to the conventional supply system – a significant achievement by any standards.

Inspired by the success of the Mijnwater system, other similar pilot projects are being developed across Europe. Cities like Paris-Saclay (France), Bochum (Germany), Heerlen and Brunssum (the Netherlands), and Glasgow and Nottingham (United Kingdom) are already following suit, leveraging this innovative approach to increase their energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions.


The Mijnwater district heating and cooling system’s success is an inspiring example of what can be achieved through innovative thinking, clever engineering, and commitment to sustainability. At Firstgreen Consulting, we closely follow such transformative projects and continue to advise our clients on how to integrate similar cutting-edge, energy-efficient, and sustainable technologies into their infrastructures. The future of urban living lies in such smart, sustainable, and efficient systems.

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