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.
The main impact arising from the successful completion of DISTRHEAT project will be to increase resilience of District Heating and Cooling (DHC) networks: with the use of model-based control they will be able to handle variability in the production (welcoming a larger share of renewables and harvested heat) and in the end-uses (through methods for demand prediction and management). It can be envisioned that the knowledge developed in the project will allow the heat management sector to introduce digitization technologies in its field of activity.
Digitalization in DHC networks is seen as one of the key enabling technologies for the future development of the entire energy sector for two reasons: (a) it will allow the greater penetration of renewable sources thanks to intelligent management, and (b) it will increase the possibility of bi-directional exchange with the network (no longer producers and consumers only, but prosumer thanks to the metering, the Internet of Things and the blockchains for the certification of exchanges) and a diffuse interconnection between the networks (sector coupling) through the management of interface technologies (such as heat pumps, recharging columns for electric cars, power-to-gas and other synthetic fuel processes etc.).
The anticipated societal benefits are based on the increased efficiency of the proposed solution which will result in a reduction of energy consumption with a consequent reduction of cost. This can lead to an enhanced attractiveness of district heating and cooling system, especially in southern Europe countries (e.g. Italy) where, historically, citizens showed a scarce inclination to shared infrastructures. Moreover, the new business model studied in DISTRHEAT, as far as the economic research is concerned, will propose incentives and economic measures that can support the reduction of the energy price. Overall, DISTRHEAT project will provide a set of cross-sectoral instruments that can boost the transformation of the heating and cooling energy distribution sector by making it applicable and convenient.
The environmental benefits will comprise not only the enhanced efficiency in residential and tertiary sectors by means of plant management, energy saving and CO2 emission reduction, but also the possibility to integrate efficiently the variable renewable energy sources into the grids. Hence, acting on district heating and cooling is an important part of developing pathways and strategic plans that contribute to a decarbonized energy system for the future.
Ultimately, DISTRHEAT will impact the fulfillment of European smart grids initiatives and Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET-Plan) objectives since it demonstrates in operative environment (TRL 7) two prototypes of smart controllers for small and large district heating networks.