How cities fulfil the potential of thermal energy through smart technologies

FuturENERGY March-April 2020

Smart cities have long-experimented with new approaches to drive smart energy projects and technologies to foster efficiencies, mainly in their electricity systems. This has allowed citizens to charge electric vehicles or reduce their energy bills through applications that allow them to manage their energy consumption in an efficient way. Meanwhile, the thermal energy grid has still not reached the heights of this smart electricity system. Nevertheless, European projects that promote smart, low-carbon district energy solutions for a sustainable energy transition mean that this is likely to change.

With heating and cooling responsible for approximately 50% of Europe’s final energy demand, district heating and cooling (DHC) networks are key to achieving an economically viable decarbonisation in urban areas. Modern district heating networks have the potential to integrate renewables, capturing excess heat from sources such as waste treatment plants or data centres, while increasing the flexibility of the overall energy system. By contrast, district cooling networks, drawing on natural cooling sources, such as lake water, could further accommodate the rising cooling demands of households, reducing the stress placed on mains grids by air conditioning systems…