Smart Energy Neighborhoods and New Heating Networks


With two successful projects, RWTH is one of the winners of the "Reallabore der Energiewende" competition of ideas launched by the German Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy.


A total of 20 projects were selected from the 90 consortia in the "Reallabore der Energiewende" – Real Laboratories of the Energy Transition competition of ideas, which was launched by the German Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy, BMWi for short. The successful projects can now apply for funding in the coming weeks and months. The BMWi provides a total of over 100 million euros for these projects every year. Three institutes from the University were each involved in developing project ideas for SmartQuart and TransUrbanNRW. Both projects look into energy-optimized neighborhoods. In the new format of real laboratories, sustainable energy technologies will be tested under real conditions and on an industrial scale.

Smart Energy Neighborhoods

In order to achieve the established global climate targets, the energy, heat, and mobility sectors must be linked more closely than they currently are. The SmartQuart project is intended to show that this is already technically and economically possible in a neighborhood and in interaction with its neighboring areas. The cities of Essen and Bedburg in North Rhine-Westphalia and Kaisersesch in Rhineland-Palatinate will form the real laboratory.

The city districts will be networked within themselves and also with each other so that the existing energy infrastructures can be used efficiently. In the model areas, smart-grid solutions intelligently combine heat, cold, green electricity, hydrogen, and mobility in order to achieve a climate-neutral energy supply. Residents, energy suppliers, and local technology providers are participating in the project in all three city districts. The project represents typical neighborhoods in a densely populated rural and urban area, so that the concepts can be transferred to other neighborhoods. The following RWTH institutes are involved in the project: the Institute for Energy Efficient Buildings and Indoor Climate – EBC, E3D - Institute of Energy Efficiency and Sustainable Building, and the Teaching and Research Field for Real Estate Development – IPE.


The TransUrbanNRW real laboratory transforms the heat supply at five locations in North Rhine-Westphalia. Up to now, these lignite mining neighborhoods have been supplied via district heating networks. In the real laboratory, the consortium relies on fifth-generation heating networks that integrate renewable energies with waste heat at all temperature levels.

These new heating networks act as an energy platform for consumers who both use energy and feed it in themselves. The necessary generation mix for heating and cooling can be synthesized from fossil and CO2-free generation capacities. This enables a step-by-step conversion from today's fossil fuel energy generation to an electricity-based and increasingly renewable heating and cooling supply. Since coal is being phased out, the role of the traditional district heating supplier is changing to that of an energy platform provider for heating, cooling, electricity, and mobility.

At RWTH, the project will be coordinated by E.ON Energy Solutions GmbH and supported by several institutes of RWTH’s E.ON Energy Research Center ERC and the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE.

Source: Press and Communications