Supplying urban districts with low-CO2 heating and cooling and at the same time offering a perspective for regions whose district heating supply is affected by the coal phase-out: by doing this, the heat supply can make a significant contribution to ensuring that cities and municipalities in Germany achieve their climate protection targets. E.ON is driving forward the transition of classic fossil district heating systems to intelligent low-CO2 energy solutions in the “TransUrban.NRW” Reallabor (living lab). The project is a winner of the idea’s competition “Reallabore of the Energy Transition” organized by the Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy and is now starting as a model project in quarters in North Rhine-Westphalia.
The project is being implemented by a consortium led by E.ON, together with E.ON regional company Avacon, municipal companies, the real estate industry and partners from research, such as RWTH Aachen University. The technology used will be latest generation low-temperature heat networks, like the solution ectogrid which E.ON developed in Sweden and TransUrban.NRW implements in Germany for the first time. Whilst district heating networks are often operated at temperatures of more than 100 degrees Celsius, today's so-called LowEx networks require only 10 to 40 degrees Celsius. This reduces energy losses and enables the integration of renewable energies such as geothermal energy or the use of waste heat, which is available in large quantities at a low temperature level. In combination with heat pumps, higher temperatures or cooling energy can be generated as required. These innovations will be brought to market more quickly by TransUrban.NRW and become competitive through economies of scale.
A further essential innovation step is the design of the LowEx network as an energy exchange platform where all connected interfaces interact with each other. This is made possible by intelligent connectivity, which can balance the heating and cooling requirements of the buildings, increasing the efficiency of the network. The waste heat generated during cooling is fed back into the energy cycle and is available elsewhere to cover the heating requirements. This works in a similar way as if a refrigerator were to collect the heat given off at its rear and feed it back into a heating circuit. This turns consumers into so-called prosumers who both use and provide energy.
“Our goal is to significantly improve the carbon footprint of cities. This is not just about expanding renewable energies. We want to look at the energy supply as a whole and implement it in partnership. With our low-temperature networks we have found a way to finally bring the energy transition as a heat transition into the city,” says E.ON Board Member Karsten Wildberger.
E.ON is one of the most innovative companies in Germany and is responsible for three of twenty selected projects. Other award-winning initiatives include “SmartQuart” under the leadership of our subsidiary innogy. Launched in early 2020, the project aims to make the use of fossil fuels in quarters largely unneeded. The E.ON regional company Hansewerk is a founding member of the initiative “Norddeutsches Reallabor”. This energy transition alliance aims to save large amounts of CO2 through consistent sector coupling and hydrogen applications.
Real-life laboratories of the energy transition:
The funding programme of the Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy (BMWi) is part of the 7th Energy Research Programme and intended to test innovations and sustainable energy technologies in practice on a large scale. The aim is to gain experience with new technologies and to assess them in an overall system. This includes the evaluation of new business models, necessary legal framework conditions and social acceptance. The results should be applicable as models for other cities and municipalities in Germany.