Flexible energy infrastructure

Reason and programme line objectives

The existing energy infrastructure is insufficiently tailored to sustainable energy and its future developments. The existing energy infrastructure must be made more flexible, reliable, better quality, and optimized for costs and performance for this. The ambition for sustainable growth in an energy-neutral urban environment by 2050, according to the Energy Agreement 2013, means that choices need to be made in favour of an energy infrastructure with the lowest possible social costs.

The main objective of this programme line is to develop:

  • information and data tools – for example for processing large amounts of data (‘big data’) – to become more familiar with the state of the energy infrastructure, and to be able to take appropriate measures at the right time and place to make the energy infrastructure more flexible.
  • innovative power electronics, and measurement and control techniques, which make the energy supply more resistant to faults and disruptions. DC options can also be developed for the electricity supply to reduce conversion losses and other negative effects.
  • flexible components and the use of demand control and storage, so that heat pumps, electric transportation, and decentralized generation on a large scale can be added in the existing energy infrastructure safely and for a lower cost.
  • solutions for the transition of natural gas to collective or other CO2-free heat supply, ultimately for a large proportion (approx. 50%) of the existing urban environment.
  • new heating solutions, such as shallow geothermal energy (<1000 metres), storage at higher temperatures, and low temperature heating grids. The transition to other temperature levels is also investigated and developed here, so that sustainable heat and ‘real’ residual heat can be better utilized. Aim: CO2-free heat supply.
  • cluster thermal systems, which can supply heat mutually and are more resistant to failure, so that available energy can be used more efficiently.

The aforementioned objective leads to an increased requirement for intelligence in and for the energy infrastructure (‘smart grids’). Choices for investing or reinvesting in the energy infrastructure also require an integral balancing of energy carriers, savings, and hybrid solutions.

It’s important that the energy infrastructure operator can rely on a flexible energy market to be prepared for network congestions and/or respond to fluctuations in energy supply and demand. This creates a relationship between the energy infrastructure in programme line 4 and the energy control systems and services in programme line 5.

To be able to make optimal use of underground thermal storage, there also needs to be a close relationship between the energy infrastructure and the developments in programme line 2, where the heating and cooling installations are developed.

The results of all programme lines are ultimately intended to combine and help to create an energy-neutral or energy-generating building or area.

2017 programmes and objectives

Urban Energy projects must fit within the following programmes and their objectives to qualify:

Programme 4a: Concepts and tools for the design or redesign of hybrid energy infrastructure

The main objective of this programme, alongside the aforementioned general programme line objectives, is to develop concepts and tools for the planning of developments in the local or other energy infrastructure, with a focus on: network adaptation, change in energy carrier, DC (direct current) versus or in combination with AC (alternating current), local energy-saving, sustainable generation and/or storage in various forms including heat storage, electric transportation, and system integration with hybrid grids. The ultimate aim of this programme for the users of the concepts and tools is:


  • optimization and transition of the local energy infrastructure;
  • insights into effects, costs and expenses of choices for energy carriers;
  • reduction of uncertainty in the design or redesign of energy infrastructure;
  • determine the effects of certainties and uncertainties for the planning of the energy infrastructure and system choices;
  • reduced complexity of the design or redesign of energy infrastructure;
  • finance models;
  • in a general sense: a basis for designing or redesigning and planning the energy infrastructure.

Programme 4b: Monitoring and control of energy grids

The main objective of this programme, alongside the aforementioned general programme line objectives, is to develop flexible network components, systems, and sensors for the energy grids. The ultimate aim for grid management is to limit the need for investments, cut operational costs of future-proof electricity and heating grids, condition measurements, pattern recognition and prediction, analysis and correction of potential or actual problems in the energy infrastructure, self-restoring functionalities, components that improve the flexibility of the energy grids, and limiting the effects of faults with temporary or permanent isolated operation.

Data and ICT will play a major role here in optimizing energy grid management:

  • create a picture of congestions that threaten the energy infrastructure in good time;
  • prevent faults as much as possible;
  • limit the effects of faults and restore disruptions;
  • optimal use of assets in the energy infrastructure.

Programme 4c: Heat distribution in existing construction

The main objective of this programme, alongside the aforementioned general programme line objectives, is to develop products for transforming mainly existing neighbourhoods and buildings into sustainable heating grids, including building connections (with integration with the indoor installation) from gas into heat, low temperature, cluster heat, 4th generation grids. The limited space in buildings, flexibility, Legionella, and regulation are points for attention in this programme.

Programme 4d: Better use of subsoil to generate and store thermal energy

The main objective of this programme, alongside the aforementioned programme line objectives, is to develop solutions for underground heat storage, for temperatures higher than 30°C, and investigating their associated exploitation opportunities. This programme also offers scope for research into and development of the possibilities for shallow geothermal energy (<1000 metre) as a sustainable energy source. Soil processes (thermal, in combination with pollution, with water extraction, soil life) and associated permits are points for attention in this programme.

Programme 4e: Framework for an intelligent energy infrastructure

The main objective of this programme, alongside the aforementioned general programme line objectives, is to develop ‘frameworks’ and ICT platforms, information and data systems, possibly via a smart meter, so that data and information facilitate the management and operation of a flexible energy infrastructure and the energy control systems and services in accordance with programme line 5.

The frameworks provide a seamless connection and interoperability between ‘intelligent’ and flexible energy infrastructure on one hand, and energy control systems and services in accordance with programme line 5 on the other. This makes it possible for energy infrastructure operators to make use of the services in accordance with programme line 5 and/or for these services to be traded on existing and new marketplaces for energy and imbalance, either via aggregation or not.

Points for attention for the programmes in this programme line

An Urban Energy project in programme line 4 takes the following points for attention into account, and responds where necessary to ensure that the project results are applied successfully (these points for attention partially overlap with those in programme line 5):

  • Marketing and revenue model.
  • Repeatability of solutions with associated international or other standardization.This is particularly the case for the ICT aspects and associated data, but also for solutions with sensor technology and heating and cooling system concepts.
  • Scalability of solutions. A project that enables scalability provides extra possibilities for making fast, substantial contributions to energy transition.
  • Earlier projects in the field have achieved results such as the ability to moderate peak loads in the energy infrastructure according to demand, to relieve bottlenecks, and to prevent faults. It’s important to work out in more detail how various parties can consolidate these results and include them in operational management to make the energy infrastructure more flexible.
  • Interoperability to connect geographic scales and different organizations.
  • Privacy, ownership of data, and ‘security’ (protecting the correct functioning of the energy infrastructure).
  • ‘Resilience’ of the energy infrastructure, the ability to restore faults and disruptions, control their negative effects, and back up.
  • ‘Open data’ and ‘open ICT platforms’: to minimize limitations for the reuse of data for multiple purposes, to make new insights and new revenue models possible, and to bring cohesion to information.