The Status of Research and Innovation on Heating and Cooling Networks as Smart Energy Systems within Horizon 2020
- to summarize the most recent innovations from the point of view of original research, as a result of the cooperation of partners from different countries and realities (e.g., research organizations, companies, and public bodies);
- to explore the potential of public engagement (i.e., participation of the public in energy-related research ), usually not included in technical papers, in the identification of technical solutions that are more attractive for customers;
- to keep track of the most recent practical research applications, since international projects often propose the demonstration of technologies in operative environments up to market uptake;
- to provide an overview of the results obtained by coupling scientific research and industrial development;
- to identify the research gaps partially addressed or not yet considered;
- to understand the direction of the global interest and to locate (i) future funding opportunities and (ii) profitable collaborations for addressing new challenges in the energy sector.
2. The Current European Context
2.1. European Policy for Research and Innvation
- a 20% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions;
- a 20% share of energy from renewable energy resources;
- a 20% improvement in energy efficiency by reducing primary energy consumption.
- the renewable energy target is set to 32%;
- the energy efficiency target is increased to 32.5%.
2.2. Previous Projects
- The CELSIUS initiative is a collaborative project that gathered the expertise and research from a large partnership to demonstrate innovative solutions for integrated heating and cooling in cities and to accelerate sustainable development. The main output is the Celsius Wiki , a web resource launched in 2016 that aims to be a source of knowledge and inspiration for cities and utility companies interested in district heating and cooling networks. The platform provides an overview of strategies for planning energy systems as well as the recent innovations concerning all issues of energy use, from efficient supply to smart system integration.
- The Energy IN TIME project aimed to develop a smart energy simulation based control method to reduce energy consumption in non-residential buildings . The main output is a control tool for building energy management systems which is automatically and remotely operated. For this purpose, dynamic simulation building models with predictive models of user behavior are integrated with adaptive algorithms for real-time control. The project entirely focused on the end-user side of the energy system. The extension of the method to energy networks could be promising.
- The CITYOPT project  aimed to create a set of applications and guidelines to make planning, design and operation of energy systems more efficient. The main output is a toolset for the optimization of urban districts comprising a simulation layer (specific for decision support) and a real-time layer, designed for demonstration and monitoring.
- The READY project aimed to demonstrate a whole city approach for increasing sustainability and renewables uptake, starting from the retrofitting of buildings to the implementation of information technologies in district energy. For instance, one of the main outputs is a short-term heat load forecasting tool based on machine learning and suitable for large district heating networks .
2.3. The Horizon 2020 Programme
- The “Excellent Science” pillar aims to develop long-term skills for the next generation of science, technology, researchers and innovation. This includes funding for talented individual researchers from the European Research Council (ERC), support for collaborative research on future and emerging technologies, innovative training and career opportunities through the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions and development of an integrated European research infrastructure.
- The “Industrial Leadership” pillar aims to accelerate technological development and help small- and medium-sized enterprises (SME) grow into leading companies. The main goals are: support for the development and demonstration of advanced technologies in the fields of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), nanotechnology, biotechnology and space, as well as access to risk finance.
- The “Societal Challenges” pillar addresses the major issues society is going to face in the near future. Such challenges are related to public health, food security, climate action, intelligent transportation, and “Secure, Clean and Efficient Energy”.
- Work Programme 2014–2015. This first call for proposals was structured in three specific research areas: “Energy Efficiency” applied to buildings, industry, heating and cooling and their integration with ICT; “Competitive Low-Carbon Energy” such as renewable energy sources; and “Smart Cities and Communities”.
- Work Programme 2016–2017. Similarly, the second part contributed to the two focus areas of “Energy Efficiency” and “Competitive Low-Carbon Energy”.
- Work Programme 2018–2020, which was recently published and is currently open for proposals. This call includes the contribution to the focus area “Building a low-carbon, climate resilient future” with special attention paid to energy efficiency and global leadership in renewable energy solutions for implementation at the energy system level.
- Research and Innovation Action (RIA): these actions aim to establish new knowledge and to explore the feasibility of new technologies and solutions. They typically include small-scale development, testing and validation of a prototype in a laboratory or simulation environment.
- Innovation Action (IA): typically guided by industrial partners, these actions aim to improve, demonstrate and validate a state-of-the-art idea on a large scale, in order to show its feasibility and convenience for the market.
- Coordination and Support Action (CSA): these actions primarily consist of accompanying measures and complementary activities that aim to improve the networking and cooperation between programs in different countries. These actions include standardization, dissemination, awareness-raising and communication.
3. Research Method
- name and acronym;
- project website and logo;
- grant agreement and total funding;
- start and end dates of the project activities;
- partnership, divided between private companies, research institutions, universities, public bodies, and others;
- general description and main goals;
- location of the demonstration sites;
- preliminary results and current status.
4. Results and Discussion
4.1. General Information
4.2. Project Features
- the INDIGO project develops an MPC for the generation, distribution and consumption levels of district cooling systems and provides a library of models for detailed information on the physical phenomena occurring in the components ;
- the OPTi project  proposes an integrated toolset for user-centric optimization of DHCs, adopting the MPC strategy and advanced modeling techniques;
- the TOPAs project designs centralized and distributed MPCs suitable for controlling the temperature in separate areas of single building environments, and compares the related performances ;
- the FLEXYNETS project  aims to test different control strategies by means of a small-scale experimental test rig that emulates a real thermal network;
- the E2District project deploys a novel management framework for district heating systems with a large number of tools and the aim of lowering the distribution temperature .
4.3. Other Projects
4.4. Drivers and Guidelines
- Digitalization. The worldwide context has evolved toward an interconnected and data-driven system, dominated by more efficient tools and devices from the ICT world as well as by data mining and machine learning techniques. This creates opportunities also for the energy sector, which can benefit from these new technologies in order to achieve more sustainable energy systems by means of the smart management of low-carbon sources (e.g., renewables and waste heat) and predictive maintenance. In this regard, one of the greatest potentialities is offered by real-time optimal control methods, which require online data processing and computationally efficient algorithms. While they were not applicable in the past, nowadays they are enabled by the latest developments in programmable controllers, innovative software and hardware architectures. These methods reinforce physics-based system modeling, which is in any case essential in accurately representing the occurring phenomena and understanding the system behavior. Overall, digitalization is beneficial for smart energy systems and should be pursued by means of the synergic match between physics-based representation, available data, and software.
- Integration. The most part of the projects summarized in this paper involves only one or two energy domains. The integration of all energy vectors (i.e., electricity, heating, cooling, natural gas), on the other hand, allows synergies to arise between these domains. Indeed, the conversion of energy into the form that is most cost-effective or energy-efficient for the global system (depending on the actual boundary conditions) will lead to optimal exploitation of renewables and energy saving. It is paramount to invest and research on enabling technologies, such as energy conversion devices (e.g., Power-to-Gas and Power-to-Heat) and optimal ways to control their integration. Furthermore, the integration should be seen also from a social point of view, as positive interactions between producers, consumers, networks and infrastructures could improve the management of smart energy grids.
- Decarbonization, toward a 100% renewable energy system that requires storage technologies to be strongly implemented. When dealing with energy storage, it is necessary to focus not only on proper storage devices, but also on unconventional storage concepts, e.g., building envelopes, frozen food, and controllable load in industry.
- Last, but not least, resilience, which is currently of utmost relevance due to the COVID-19 containment measures that have greatly affected the energy scenario and that may have repercussions in future years . Similarly, the global energy system will have to be able to adapt to other unpredictable global events that might occur in the future.
- Policy makers, who are responsible for defining the priorities for the next calls , shaping funding opportunities and updating roadmaps [49,50,51]. The prospect of smart approaches and available renewable technologies is vast, but most are still at a preliminary phase. In the light of this, policy makers and investors should stimulate the work actions that demonstrate the feasibility of these technologies in operational environment (i.e., IA). They should also promote the formation of experimental areas where more smart technologies can be integrated, tested and exploited jointly , and where limitations (e.g., due to interferences between different technologies) and opportunities (e.g., due to synergies between technologies) can be observed. Overall, the leading trend for the next few years is to rely on strong and well-defined partnerships in order to actualize innovation. Another fundamental aspect that should be included in future opportunities is social and economic research. As a matter of fact, the spread of digital technologies might be limited by opposition from consumers. Hence, investigating social acceptance, accessibility and affordability, as well as creating new business and behavioral models in order to engage the customers in innovation, will determine win-win solutions for consumers, producers, network providers and investors.
- Energy system designers, who should adopt an integrated holistic approach to system development. Indeed, they should focus on the optimization of the entire energy system (also with LCA and evaluation of the environmental performance in the long term) and not of individual components, by considering design and operation at the same time with the help of system digital twins and simulation platforms. The designers should also consider the limitations (e.g., the current power grid capacity) and opportunities (e.g., increasing the share of renewables and waste heat recovery) given by the evolution of the energy context. It is important to propose solutions with high potential for replication, but also to adapt and exploit the new tools made available by research and innovation in order to retrofit the existing systems.
- Researchers, who should deeply investigate the applicability of digital technologies in theory and practice. It is paramount to move from technological research to product demonstration in relevant and operational environments, in order to bring innovation to the market. One of the key priorities is to develop new interactive platforms for decision-making, energy network management and cross-sector integration. It is also important to focus on methods which, in the presented projects, have not been addressed to a significant extent. Real-time control is still raw and outdated in most DHCs, therefore the implementation of MPC strategies, enabled by new developments in ICT and optimization, deserves more attention. Other promising approaches include peak shaving and demand response, which should be exported to thermal networks. Finally, researchers should not underestimate social and economic research in order to cover user needs and involve the end-users in identifying more profitable solutions.
- the projects on smart energy systems are mainly coordinated by partners in western and northern Europe, even though almost every European country contributes to the innovation;
- it is reasonable to expect a large number of publications and data available from technology demonstration, as most of the projects are still ongoing;
- there is increased interest in the integration of electricity, heating, cooling, and natural gas sectors, in order to exploit their synergies and interconnection/storage technologies in an optimal way;
- similarly, about one third of the projects tackles both district and building levels, considering the system from production to consumption;
- software applications with model libraries, digital technologies, and business models are key elements of the future smart energy systems;
- a few projects that address real-time control obtained promising results from predictive control strategies, which deserve further testing;
- additional funding opportunities such as the ERA-Net Smart Energy Systems Joint Calls are regarded as relevant since they foster sector integration and the inclusion of social and economic aspects in innovation.
Conflicts of Interest
|CSA||Coordination and Support Action|
|DHC||District Heating and Cooling|
|ICT||Information and Communication Technologies|
|LCA||Life Cycle Analysis|
|LCC||Life Cycle Cost|
|MPC||Model Predictive Control|
|RES||Renewable Energy Sources|
|RIA||Research and Innovation Action|
|SES||Smart Energy Systems|
|SET-Plan||Strategic Energy Technology Plan|
|SME||Small to Medium-sized Enterprise|
|TRL||Technology Readiness Level|
|Project||Title||Grant Agreement||Funding Scheme||Funding [€]||Coordinator Country||Start Date||End Date|
|4RinEU||Robust and Reliable technology concepts and business models for triggering deep Renovation of Residential buildings in EU||723829||IA||4,627,954||Italy||01/10/2016||30/06/2021|
|CHESS-SETUP||Combined Heat System by using Solar Energy and heaT pUmPs||680556||IA||3,703,706||Spain||01/06/2016||31/05/2020|
|Cool DH||Cool ways of using low grade Heat Sources from Cooling and Surplus Heat for heating of Energy Efficient Buildings with new Low Temperature District Heating (LTDH) Solutions||767799||IA||5,291,186||Denmark||01/10/2017||30/09/2021|
|CoolHeating||Market uptake of small modular renewable district heating and cooling grids for communities||691679||CSA||1,664,340||Germany||01/01/2016||31/12/2018|
|Create||Compact Retrofit Advanced Thermal Energy Storage||680450||RIA||5,914,658||Netherlands||01/10/2015||30/06/2020|
|DR-BOB||Demand Response in Blocks of Buildings for Energy Systems||696114||IA||5,136,770||United Kingdom||01/03/2016||31/08/2019|
|DRIvE||Demand Response Integration tEchnologies: unlocking the demand response potential in the distribution grid||774431||RIA||3,955,259||Spain||01/12/2017||30/11/2020|
|E2District||Energy Efficient Optimised District Heating and Cooling||696009||RIA||1,999,849||Ireland||01/02/2016||31/07/2019|
|EnergyMatching||Adaptable and adaptive RES envelope solutions to maximise energy harvesting and optimise EU building and district load matching||768766||IA||6,994,120||Italy||01/10/2017||31/03/2022|
|ExcEED||European Energy Efficient building district Database: from data to information to knowledge||723858||CSA||749,633||Italy||01/09/2016||30/09/2019|
|FLEXYNETS||Fifth generation, Low temperature, high EXergY district heating and cooling NETworkS||649820||RIA||1,999,364||Italy||01/07/2015||31/12/2018|
|FHP||Flexible Heat and Power, Connecting heat and power networks by harnessing the complexity in distributed thermal flexibility||731231||RIA||3,823,606||Belgium||01/11/2016||31/10/2019|
|HACKS||Heating And Cooling Know-how and Solutions||845231||CSA||2,159,045||France||01/09/2019||31/08/2022|
|H-DisNet||Intelligent Hybrid Thermo-Chemical District Networks||695780||RIA||2,699,895||Belgium||01/06/2016||31/12/2019|
|HEART||Holistic Energy and Architectural Retrofit Toolkit||768921||IA||6,638,687||Italy||01/10/2017||30/09/2021|
|Heat4Cool||Smart building retrofitting complemented by solar assisted heat pumps integrated within a self-correcting intelligent building energy management system||723925||IA||7,934,578||Italy||03/10/2016||02/10/2020|
|HIT2GAP||Highly Innovative building control Tools Tackling the energy performance GAP||680708||IA||7,914,590||France||01/09/2015||31/08/2019|
|HOLISDER||Integrating Real-Intelligence in Energy Management Systems enabling Holistic Demand Response Optimization in Buildings and Districts||768614||IA||5,052,547||Spain||01/10/2017||30/09/2020|
|HotMaps||Heating and Cooling: Open Source Tool for Mapping and Planning of Energy Systems||723677||RIA||2,996,870||Austria||01/10/2016||30/09/2020|
|HRE Heat Roadmap Europe||Building the knowledge, skills, and capacity required to enable new policies and encourage new investments in the heating and cooling sector||695989||CSA||2,113,482||Denmark||01/03/2016||28/02/2019|
|InDeal||Innovative Technology for District Heating and Cooling||696174||RIA||1,992,726||United Kingdom||01/06/2016||28/02/2019|
|INDIGO||New generation of Intelligent Efficient District Cooling system||696098||RIA||2,960,853||Spain||01/03/2016||30/09/2020|
|InteGRIDy||Integrated Smart GRID Cross-Functional Solutions for Optimized Synergetic Energy Distribution, Utilization Storage Technologies||731268||IA||15,840,275||Spain||01/01/2017||31/12/2020|
|KeepWarm||Improving the performance of district heating systems in Central and Eastern Europe||784966||CSA||2,098,497||Germany||01/04/2018||30/09/2020|
|LOWUP||LOW valued energy sources UPgrading for buildings and industry users||723930||RIA||4,086,245||Spain||01/11/2016||30/04/2020|
|MAGNITUDE||Bringing flexibility provided by multi energy carrier integration to a new MAGNITUDE||774309||RIA||3,999,058||France||01/10/2017||31/03/2021|
|MAtchUP||MAximizing the UPscaling and replication potential of high level urban transformation strategies||774477||IA||19,452,329||Spain||01/10/2017||30/09/2022|
|MOBISTYLE||MOtivating end-users Behavioral change by combined ICT based tools and modular Information services on energy use, indoor environment, health and lifestyle||723032||IA||2,407,910||Netherlands||01/10/2016||30/06/2020|
|MOEEBIUS||Modeling and Optimization of Energy Efficiency in Buildings for Urban Sustainability||680517||IA||7,288,383||Spain||01/11/2015||30/04/2019|
|MPC-: GT||Model Predictive Control and Innovative System Integration of GEOTABS in Hybrid Low Grade Thermal Energy Systems||723649||RIA||4,263,701||Belgium||01/09/2016||31/08/2020|
|MUSE GRIDS||Multi Utilities Smart Energy GRIDS||824441||IA||7,430,784||Italy||01/11/2018||31/10/2022|
|NewTREND||New integrated methodology and Tools for Retrofit design towards a next generation of Energy efficient and sustainable buildings and Districts||680474||IA||5,732,388||United Kingdom||01/09/2015||31/08/2018|
|OptEEmAL||Optimized Energy Efficient Design Platform for Refurbishment at District Level||680676||IA||4,748,859||Spain||01/09/2015||28/02/2019|
|OPTi||Optimization of District Heating and Cooling systems||649796||RIA||2,100,130||Sweden||01/03/2015||30/04/2018|
|PENTAGON||Unlocking European grid local flexibility through augmented energy conversion capabilities at district level||731125||RIA||4,437,834||United Kingdom||01/12/2016||30/11/2019|
|Plan4Res||Synergistic Approach of Multi-Energy Models for an European Optimal Energy System Management Tool||773897||RIA||3,905,060||France||01/11/2017||31/10/2020|
|PLANET||Planning and operational tools for optimising energy flows and synergies between energy networks||773839||RIA||3,999,695||Italy||01/11/2017||31/10/2020|
|Planheat||Integrated tool for empowering public authorities in the development of sustainable plans for low carbon heating and cooling||723757||RIA||2,999,400||Italy||01/10/2016||31/01/2020|
|progRESsHEAT||Supporting the progress of renewable energies for heating and cooling in the EU on a local level||646573||CSA||1,728,305||Austria||01/03/2015||31/10/2017|
|RELaTED||REnewable Low TEmperature District||768567||IA||4,755,475||Spain||01/11/2017||31/10/2021|
|REMOURBAN||REgeneration MOdel for accelerating the smart URBAN transformation||646511||IA||24,754,878||Spain||01/01/2015||30/06/2020|
|RenoZEB||Accelerating Energy renovation solution for Zero Energy buildings and Neighbourhoods||768718||IA||8,708,051||Spain||01/10/2017||30/09/2021|
|RES4BUILD||Renewables for clean energy buildings in a future power system||814865||RIA||4,999,702||Germany||01/05/2019||30/04/2023|
|RESPOND||Integrated demand REsponse Solution towards energy POsitive NeighbourhooDs||768619||IA||3,693,615||Spain||01/10/2017||30/09/2020|
|ReUseHeat||Recovery of Urban Excess Heat||767429||IA||4,894,330||Sweden||01/10/2017||30/09/2021|
|REWARDHeat||Renewable and Waste Heat Recovery for Competitive District Heating and Cooling Networks||857811||IA||19,023,298||Italy||01/10/2019||30/09/2023|
|SmartEnCity||Towards Smart Zero CO2 Cities across Europe||691883||IA||31,874,538||Spain||01/02/2016||31/07/2021|
|SMARTER TOGETHER||Smart and Inclusive Solutions for a Better Life in Urban Districts||691876||IA||29,801,762||France||01/02/2016||31/01/2021|
|SO WHAT||Supporting new Opportunities for Waste Heat And cold valorisation Towards EU decarbonization||824441||IA||4,195,357||Italy||01/06/2019||31/05/2022|
|Spine||Open source toolbox for modelling integrated energy systems||774629||RIA||3,729,988||Finland||01/10/2017||30/09/2021|
|STORM||Self-Organising Thermal Operational Resource Management||649743||RIA||1,972,126||Belgium||01/03/2015||31/03/2019|
|STORY||Added value of STORage in distribution sYstems||646426||IA||15,353,840||Finland||01/05/2015||30/04/2020|
|TEMPO||TEMPerature Optimisation for Low Temperature District Heating||723649||IA||4,997,041||Belgium||01/10/2017||30/09/2021|
|THERMOS||THermal Energy Resource Modelling and Optimisation System||723636||RIA||2,902,480||United Kingdom||01/10/2016||30/06/2020|
|THERMOSS||Building and district thermal retrofit and management solutions||723562||IA||8,796,474||United Kingdom||01/09/2016||29/02/2020|
|TOPAs||Tools for Continuous Building Performance Auditing||676770||IA||6,139,296||Israel||01/11/2015||31/10/2018|
|Upgrade DH||Upgrading the performance of district heating networks in Europe||785014||CSA||1,999,667||Germany||01/05/2018||30/04/2021|
|WEDISTRICT||Smart and local reneWable Energy DISTRICT heating and cooling solutions for sustainable living||857801||IA||19,273,573||Spain||01/10/2019||31/03/2023|
|Project||Energy Vector||Application||Main Outcome||Purpose||Other Features|
|Heating||Cooling||Electricity||Gas||Grid/District||Building||Software/Platform||Model/Library||Optimization Tool||Business Model||Planning||Sizing/Design||Retrofitting||Real Time Control||Monitor/Management||Diagnosis||MPC||Machine Learning||Forecasting||LCA/LCC||Demand Response||Peak Shaving||Storage||RES|
|HRE Heat Roadmap Europe||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
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|Energy vector||This identifies the energy carriers the project works on: thermal power, cooling power, electricity, or natural gas.|
|Application||Grid/District||The project’s activities are applied at grid or district level, generally involving a multi-source complex energy system.|
|Building||The project’s activities are applied at building level.|
|Main Outcome||Software/Platform||The scope of the activity is to create a software package, a platform, a web application, or a framework for researchers and industries.|
|Model/Library||The scope of the activity is to create a model or a library of models for the effective simulation of buildings or district energy system components.|
|Optimization tool||The activity comprises the development of an optimization algorithm or the solution of optimization problems for minimizing an objective (e.g., cost, total energy consumption).|
|Business model||The activity aims to create a new business model for the industrialization or exploitation of the concept.|
|Purpose||Planning||The purpose of the project is to perform long-term (yearly) planning and scheduling of the system.|
|Sizing/Design||The sizing or design of the distribution grid, generation systems and loads, additionally considering the topology, are carried out.|
|Retrofitting||The purpose of the project is the evaluation of adding innovative technology to existing systems for refurbishment.|
|Real-time control||Innovative intelligent control strategies are implemented and tested.|
|Monitor/Management||System monitoring through smart meters and sensors and overall system management to achieve a given goal is performed.|
|Diagnosis||The methodology is developed to perform system diagnosis or fault detection.|
|MPC||The Model Predictive Control technique is applied: the control action is optimized based on the future behavior of the system predicted by a dynamic model.|
|Other||Machine learning||Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence techniques are used for the classification and identification of models by exploiting the available data on the system.|
|Forecasting||The forecasting of weather conditions, energy demand or other external disturbances are implemented.|
|LCA/LCC||Life Cycle Analysis or Life Cycle Cost are performed to evaluate the global environmental or economic impact of the system.|
|Demand Response||Demand Response strategies are integrated in order to adjust energy demand to match the supply through engaging customers and promoting behavior that is beneficial to the system.|
|Peak shaving||Strategies for the elimination or leveling of the peak loads are evaluated.|
|Storage||Energy storage is accounted as a key component to improve the flexibility of the system.|
|RES||There is specific reference to the integration of Renewable Energy Sources (RES) as one of the goals of a work package.|
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Saletti, C.; Morini, M.; Gambarotta, A. The Status of Research and Innovation on Heating and Cooling Networks as Smart Energy Systems within Horizon 2020. Energies 2020, 13, 2835. https://doi.org/10.3390/en13112835
Saletti C, Morini M, Gambarotta A. The Status of Research and Innovation on Heating and Cooling Networks as Smart Energy Systems within Horizon 2020. Energies. 2020; 13(11):2835. https://doi.org/10.3390/en13112835Chicago/Turabian Style
Saletti, Costanza, Mirko Morini, and Agostino Gambarotta. 2020. "The Status of Research and Innovation on Heating and Cooling Networks as Smart Energy Systems within Horizon 2020" Energies 13, no. 11: 2835. https://doi.org/10.3390/en13112835