Fifteen stakeholders participated in the first CGC workshop, providing valuable insights on the three discussed objectives. Specifically, the analyzed objectives and the obtained outcomes are presented in the following points:
Objective 1: Specification of potential needs, problems, and expectations with regard to regional heating and cooling systems and services.
First, the mapping of utilized energy sources for heating and cooling was introduced, specifying that the district heating, biomass and oil products are the dominant fuels in the final consumption sectors. Moreover, the potential of biomass can be characterized as high, while various factors hamper the further penetration of biomass for heating, such as the absence of the necessary legal framework for the further exploitation of forest and residual biomass, illegal logging, steep topology, etc. Furthermore, district heating is expected to maintain its important role for the fulfillment of heating demand, while further penetration of district heating is hindered by the lack of a robust legal framework regarding the sale of the thermal energy produced and the absence of financial mechanisms for the extension of the existing district heating grid.
Objective 2: Description of the future situation in terms of their environmental, functional, and economic aspects and measures/policies to be implemented.
The main axes regarding the evolution of heating and cooling in the future should be based both on the further extension of the existing district heating network and the development of local district heating grids with biomass. Moreover, further exploitation of district heating can be fulfilled with the promotion of co-firing of lignite with biomass, while solar thermal can support the utilization of biomass for district heating. Woodchips and pellets should have a dominant role during the development of the heating plans. The most important criterion for the development of the heating and cooling plans should be the degree of energy poverty and its potential alleviation, while various other social and environmental criteria should be taken into account.
Objective 3: Identification of available data sources and procedures for data collection.
Finally, all the available information needs to be collected, focusing mainly on the implemented financing programs and the results of the pilot programs in the region.
Concluding the development of heating and cooling plans in the region of Western Macedonia is rather challenging, as the high heating demand must be fulfilled taking into consideration the unique economic and societal characteristics of the local population. The RES potential can be considered high and it is essential that it be combined with the existing district heating network. Finally, the upcoming development of heating and cooling plans will gather the interest of the local and regional authorities, who have understood the developmental prospects of this undertaking and will support their development and implementation, fulfilling specific conditions.