Research by dena on the municipal energy transition

von | 23 / 06 / 2022 | Information center

“Networked neighborhoods have a key role, they are better and cheaper”

Energy prices are going through the roof. New horror stories appear every day. Heating is becoming a luxury. New research by the German Energy Agency (dena) reaches a clear conclusion: municipalities can halt this develop - using simple methods.

"The earth doesn't have an energy problem, it's an implementation problem", syas the President of the German Club of Rome, Prof. Motib Latif.

As far back as 1972, the organization published its first report, which even then gave an urgent warning. The message was clear: we will kill ourselves and our planet if we carry on like this. 

In the meantime, it is dawning on more and more people that there is very little time to prevent the climate catastrophe. “You can't solve a problem with the same mindset that created it,” Albert Einstein said.

A team of researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems, ISE, has been contracted by dena to look for effective, low-cost solutions for energy supply in communities. The question posed is whether each individual building should be self-sufficient or whether it makes more sense to have a networked supply for entire neighborhoods.  

The outcome offers hope to municipalities and consumers alike. "Renewable power and heat supply for entire neighborhoods is better and more cost-effective than decentralized supply for individual buildings", the researchers conclude. The municipalities are the decisive players here.

Renewable energies, which can to a large extent be generated decentrally, form the basis for all climate-neutral energy systems. “This will enable cities and communities to supply themselves with a significant share of self-generated energy in the future,” write the authors of the study. The guiding principle is that everyone can make electricity, every community, every city, every neighborhood, at least for their own needs.

dena: we need new energy system structures

Therefore, the use of urban rooftop solar potential is absolutely necessary to achieve our climate goals, as it can be done without using any additional land. Moreover, generating electricity close to where it is consumed reduces the need for transportation.

However, the supply of electricity and heat in Germany is still based around large central power plants that often transport their energy over many kilometers, which incorporates transmission losses. The costs of the infrastructure for energy transport, in addition to those of primary energy such as coal, gas and oil, have a particularly strong impact here. “We have wasted 10 or 15 years with backward-looking policies,” says Claudia Kemfert of the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW).

Although the “traffic light” government in Berlin is now increasing the pace, all experts agree that Germany needs to step it up a notch, especially when it comes to the heating transition. In addition, the war in Ukraine has highlighted the danger of relying on fossil fuels. “This dramatic event must now be the last wake-up call to finally move away from oil, coal and gas,” says energy economist Kempfert.  

The dena experts are therefore calling for a rethink and new energy system structures in the municipalities, because “for the success of the energy transition”, neighborhoods are “increasingly taking on a key role”. These are important interfaces. It is where many things come together. Until now, their development has focused primarily on urban planning and social aspects. With the energy transition, the entire energy supply is coming into focus.

Adjustments are needed in the following areas: transportation, buildings, energy supply. A wide range of synergies arise from this. “In cities and communities, it is expedient to consider not only individual buildings, but the building in its spatial context,” the study states. This, it says, makes it possible to “tap into completely new efficiency potentials and possible measures at the local and regional level.” Previously separate systems must now be thought of together, the experts insist.

According to the experts, the new energy management system not only includes strategies for saving energy and increasing energy efficiency, but also the intelligent use of renewable energies. This includes storage technologies that use artificial intelligence (AI) to manage generation, demand and consumption at the neighborhood level. “The local level offers enormous opportunities for the transformation towards climate neutrality. Here, heating, cooling, electricity and mobility are considered together in intelligent sector coupling,” according to the authors.

You can access the dena study here

Want to find out more?

Do you need information about enocoo software?

You will find all information on functionality and benefits here.

Already convinced?

Discover what we offer and how you can benefit!

Our team will be happy to advise you on our software solution.