In recent years, public perception of the energy transition has been dominated almost completely by the electricty sector. However, it is not only in the electricity sector, but also in the areas of heat supply, cooling and transportation that fossil fuels need to be successively replaced with renewable energies. Particularly in the heat supply area, the significant possibilities for the decarbonisation of the energy system are increasingly becoming clear. In Germany, approximately half of the overall energy requirement is used to supply heat. For this reason, the provision of a climate-friendly, reliable and affordable heat supply is central to the success of the energy transition.
The structure of the heat supply system is fundamentally different from that of the energy supply system. Unlike electrical energy, heat cannot be transported over long distances due to the high level of heat loss. Heat generation therefore needs to take place much more decentrally and, above all, closer to the consumption location than electricity generation. Here in Germany, most buildings have their own heating unit. In some exceptional cases, buildings draw their heat from district heating networks. This type of heat supply system should be further developed and optimised in order to transition the heat supply system to renewable sources of heat such as geothermal and solar heat, heat pumps, waste heat from industry and business, and combined heat and power (CHP) generated from renewable or synthetic fuels. Several of CC4E's research projects are active in this area.
The CC4E's research focus is the transformation of the heat supply network. This includes first and foremost the development and control of intelligent heat supply networks as well as the creation of transformation strategies for district heating systems, and extends to a completely renewable heat supply. Our key areas of expertise are modelling, the distributed simulation of thermal systems, and the development of monitoring, controlling and regulating algorithms.
Against this backdrop the CC4E studies, for example, how flexible CHP plants can be utilised. The goal is to be able to react actively to fluctuating demand for electricity. At the same time, researchers are investigating how possibilities for heat storage can be increased with the help of urban infrastructure. As part of this work, they are also investigating how aquifer thermal energy storage can be linked to an intelligent heat supply network. Aquifers are natural, isolated stone formations that circulate groundwater far below the earth's surface. Thermal energy can be stored in this groundwater over the long term. Aquifer storage systems serve primarily to cover seasonal fluctuations in demand. Another relevant area for controlling demand or consumption is intelligent demand-side management. This increases the conservation potential and can contribute significantly to increasing the efficiency of the heat supply network. The diverse research activities use complex simulations, the results of which are also tested in field tests. In addition to the technical aspects, we also consider the business aspects. For example, we are conducting research on how novel trade, marketing and verification mechanisms can contribute to decarbonising district heating systems.
This research area also utilises the Energy Campus Technology Centre and works continously on the further development and operation of the smart-grid laboratory housed there.