About the Project

DISTRHEAT (Digital Intelligent and Scalable conTrol for Renewables in HEAting neTworks) is a research project funded by the European Commission through ERA-Net Smart Energy Systems (SES). The project started the 1st of November 2019 and will end the 31st of October 2022.

The aim of the project is to demonstrate and test in real operating environment the Model Predictive Control (MPC) applied to District Heating and Cooling networks (DHC).

DHC recently showed their potential in reducing CO2 emissions, enhancing energy efficiency and integrating renewable energy resources. These systems introduced issues such as load allocation and control and management, especially in presence of highly variable climate conditions which are likely to occur more often in the near future. Innovative measures are required to efficiently operate and optimize DHC to reduce energy consumption and human impact on the planet.

The need for advanced controllers that are able to face the challenges imposed by the growing share of renewable energy sources and climate variable conditions is highlighted. Unlike traditional control methods, Model Predictive Control (MPC) is instead a well-established technique in the process and chemical field but hardly deployed in energy systems. It allows control and optimization of the system accounting for the prediction of its behavior in a future time horizon.

The potential of MPC will be demonstrated on two different test sites: (i) a medium-size DHC for the fulfillment of thermal demand in the service sector in Italy and in (ii) a large-size DHC for the fulfillment of thermal demand in the residential sector in Sweden. The project will not only deal with technology topics, it will also analyze the social and economic impact of the proposed technology and address the potential barriers and opportunities to its diffusion.

DISTRHEAT will pursue the demonstration of a new controller that allows for the global energy consumption of multi-source energy systems and thermal networks to be reduced. The results of the study will constitute a reference for the stakeholders of the energy sector and will lead to a significant change in the way energy systems are managed and controlled. Moreover, the dissemination of a promising smart technology at industrial level will become the baseline for further developments throughout Europe.

The project partnership involves two need-owners (Siram Veolia and Mälarenergi), two research institutions (Center for Energy and Environment of the University of Parma and School of Business, Society and Engineering of the Mälardalen University) and a technology provider (First Control Systems AB).


This project has received funding in the framework of the joint programming initiative ERA-Net Smart Energy Systems’ focus initiative Integrated, Regional Energy Systems, with support from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 775970.

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The results of DISTRHEAT will be two prototypes and a methodology that aims to be scalable and applicable on heating networks, regardless of extent and size. This renders the results of the project replicable and scalable, which eventually leads to the corresponding impact of the project.

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Work Packages

The project comprises 9 work packages, targeting at maximizing the quality of outputs and efficiently disseminating the scientific material.

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