DHC Networks and Control Strategies – Mapping the State of the Art

One of the first steps in the STORM project was to thoroughly map the current situation of DHC networks and control strategies in Europe.

Since STORM aims at developing an innovative district heating & cooling (DHC) network controller, one of the first steps in the project was to thoroughly map the current situation of DHCs in Europe.

At the moment there are over 12,000 DHC grids in the EU, varying from very small multiple-houses systems to very large systems in densely populated areas. These grids however only cover 16.9% of total EU population whilst the coverage of district cooling (0.2%) is even smaller. Still, 68.7% of the total energy used for district heating origins, directly or indirectly, from fossil fuels.

Heat demand of the built environment is likely to decrease in the future due to energy saving measures, increasing efficiencies, new technologies and global warming. This means that existing DHC-systems will deliver less energy to their customer base. Therefore the emphasis has to be put on replacing and newly constructing DHC-systems based on new sustainable techniques. A survey of 1,703 city districts in western European countries shows that an increase from 10 to 60% coverage is possible within a cost-margin of 1-2€/GJ. Besides that, new developed business cases, based on exchanging energy-flows and introducing time and intelligence to DHC-systems, show that creating sound business cases is achievable.

Generally, there are three important markets in the DHC-field to distinguish: the mature market (mostly the Northern member states), to be served by optimizing control featuring a wide range of green technologies; the refurbishment market (mostly the older systems in the former Central European and Eastern bloc countries), where new techniques can lead to financial gains facilitating green technologies; and the expansion/refurbishment market (green fields, primarily in the Western and Southern EU member states) where new developments with healthy business cases will lead to promising environmental performance. The figure below shows the different rates of DH coverage in EU member states according to European regions.


The development of modern, affordable district energy systems is one with the least costs, and most-efficient solutions for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and hence counteract Europe’s dependence on fossil fuels. A transition to such systems could contribute as much as 58% to the CO2 emission reductions required in the energy sector by 2050.

In order to create healthy business cases for a wide application of DHC-systems it is a necessity to switch to ground-breaking innovative strategies. Key words are improved efficiency, large-scale storage and energy-exchange driven by highly intelligent operating systems.

Both existing as well as newly developed or renovated DHC systems need intelligent controlling. Therefore the STORM controller is considered as an important key in the development of district heating and cooling in the EU.