Integrated heating and cooling networks with heat-sharing-enabled smart prosumers

Lead Research Organisation: Cardiff University
Department Name: Sch of Engineering


Project aim
This project proposes a solution for integrated supply of zero carbon heating and cooling using near ground temperature networks that enable buildings to use heat pumps and cooling machines to exchange thermal energy with the network and meet their heating and cooling demand. When a building demands cooling, it rejects its excess heat to the network that can balance the heating demand of another buildings. Therefore, in this project we refer to such networks as 'balanced heating and cooling network' (BHCN). Key contributions of this research are: (i) To investigate the optimal design and operation of BHCN using a multi-objective optimisation approach to balance costs of the system and the value it can provide to the whole power grid via providing flexibility services. In particular, we will examine inter-seasonal heat storage, and also the feasibility of using NH3 and CO2 (as alternatives to water) for heat transport mediums in BHCNs. (ii) To design a local heat market that enables peer-to-peer (P2P) heat sharing to maximise the use of zero carbon sources of thermal energy on-site, and (iii) To identify technical, regulatory and policy barriers against implementing BHCNs (i.e. managing the transition from status quo to BHCN). This research will also build significant UK research capacity in zero carbon and ambient temperature heat networks.

The need for decarbonising heat supply: According to the 2017 Clean Growth Strategy, the UK Government believes 'decarbonising heat is our most difficult policy and technology challenge to meet our carbon targets'. Progress on energy efficiency and low carbon heat provision remains below expected levels and natural gas infrastructure continues to be expanded which poses risk to achieving the recently set net zero goal for 2050.
The role of heat networks: The Clean Growth Strategy suggests 17% of domestic heat and between 17% and 24% of service sector heat could be provided through heat networks in 2050. The Committee on Climate Change suggests around 5 million homes could use district heat by 2050 based on techno-economic modelling. However, heat network growth is slow despite requiring around a tenfold increase from the current level by 2050.
The growing demand for cooling: Coinciding with the crucial need for supplying low carbon heat, the demand for cooling is also increasing in the UK (and globally) due to population increase and climate change impacts which are leading to more frequent heatwaves and temperature rises. According to BRE, up to 10% of all UK electricity use is for air conditioning and cooling. Because of this established trend toward increased use of cooling, the proportion of UK electricity used for cooling is expected to rise further.
A potential solution for zero carbon supply of heating and cooling: Balanced Heating and Cooling Networks (BHCN), are a form of district heating system which circulates water at near ground temperature to buildings allow them to use their own heat pumps to extract heat for heating, or to export heat to the network when cooling is required.
BHCNs address many of the drawbacks of conventional heat networks through operating at reduced temperature and therefore minimising heat losses and reduce the cost of highly insulated pipes. They also open up opportunities for integrating various sources of renewable heat into the networks. The circuit can also be extended to new buildings at limited cost.

Work Programme

WP1 - Case study definition
WP 2 - Assessing renewable heat sources and inter-seasonal storage
WP 3 - Techno-economic appraisal of BHCN
WP 4 - Development of a methods and tools for Peer-to-Peer (P2P) heat sharing
WP 5 - Managing implementation and transition to BHCNs

Planned Impact

This project proposes a solution for the integrated supply of zero carbon heating and cooling using near ground temperature networks which could form an important part of heat decarbonisation in the UK and more widely. The proposed research will inform policy and regulation and provide technical recommendations to enable maximum exploitation of low temperature renewable heat sources. The development of balanced heating and cooling networks could also provide significant export opportunities.

Collaboration and knowledge transfer

A project Advisory Board (AB) has been formed consisting of senior delegates from the project partner organisations. A key goal of the AB is to maximise project impact. During the project, additional relevant stakeholders in the UK energy sector who are potential users of this research will be identified and invited to join the AB. The AB will meet every 6 months throughout the project to provide technical advice and support implementation and exploitation of the project outcomes. The 1st AB meeting will be held soon after the start of the project to plan arrangements for stakeholder engagement, dissemination and exploitation strategy and a knowledge transfer plan. In addition to the AB meetings, meetings with individual stakeholders will be scheduled for detailed discussions around data, methodology and technical challenges regarding relevant work packages.
Every year, 4 consortium meetings between the project team (investigators and PDRAs) are scheduled to guarantee sufficient researcher interactions and collaborations. Video-conferencing will be used where possible to reduce the project's greenhouse gas emissions.

Impact activities

The existence, objectives, activities, and findings of the project will be publicised and disseminated through a range of activities including:
Interactions with other research consortia: The investigators play key roles in major energy research consortia such as UKERC 4, Supergen Energy Networks Hub, ITRC/MISTRAL, Flexis and EnergyRev. The already established links with these consortia and networks will guarantee the proposed project will benefit from and contribute to the broader research activities in the area of heat decarbonisation.
Presentations: Findings of the project will be disseminated through the project partners and presenting at relevant national and international research conferences and industry events, such as IEEE conferences, Utility Weeks, etc.
Workshops: In collaboration with colleagues in Technical University of Denmark who are supporting this project, annual workshops (4 in total) will be organised with participation of pioneer researchers and industries from UK and Europe (~30 people). These workshops will be used to refine the research questions, review and critique findings, learn from international experience and support outreach. A specific policy makers workshop will be held towards the end of the project which will cover policy relevant findings and enhance low carbon heat networking.
Publications: The research outputs will be published in at least 6 original papers in high profile journals: Nature Energy, IEEE Transactions and Applied Energy. We will also produce a 'policy makers briefing' which will provide high level implications for policy makers in a short publication.
Media: A project website will be set up immediately in M1, and in parallel with investigators social media accounts will be used to publicise the project and our activities. In addition, to maximise engagement with public, the key findings/messages of the research will be conveyed through publishing articles in newspapers/websites and responding to ongoing media issue.
Blogs: Blogs are one of the best way to keep interested up to speed with findings and ideas ahead of full publications. We plan to publish blogs, on our website and through wider networks at least every three months.
Description A response to Heat Network Zoning consultation
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Contribution to a national consultation/review
Description (VPP4ISLANDS) - Virtual Power Plant for Interoperable and Smart isLANDS
Amount € 7,223,109 (EUR)
Funding ID 957852 
Organisation European Commission 
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 09/2020 
End 03/2024
Description Flexibility from Cooling and Storage (Flex-Cool-Store)
Amount £1,113,918 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/V042505/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 08/2021 
End 09/2024
Description SiemensEPSRC Digital Twin with Data-Driven Predictive Control: Unlocking Flexibility of Industrial Plants for Supporting a Net Zero Electricity System
Amount £50,377 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/W028573/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 12/2021 
End 08/2022
Description A conference presentation to ICAE 2021 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact A presentation was delivered by Mr Jonathan Amirmadhi in ICAE 2021. Th title of presentation was "Modelling of electrical - thermal - hydraulic system interdependencies in 5th Generation District Heating and Cooling Networks".
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
Description Interview for Small Nation Big Ideas 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact A 1 minute interview about decarbonisation of heat in South Wales.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
Description The Distributed Energy Show 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Conference and exhibition hall event focusing on flexibility, decarbonisation and sustainability within future energy systems. Purpose was to network with business and industry in order to share details of research project and find opportunities for future collaborations.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021