In April 2021, a project was launched that is unique in Germany to date and that is comprehensively dedicated to the heat transition as an important part of achieving the climate goals. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is providing a total of 16 million euros to the consortium of 21 partners until November 2025. The funds will be used as a research and development budget for the new joint project "Wärmewende Nordwest" (WWNW for short). A further 3 million euros will be contributed by the partners from industry. In the coming years, the partners will use the funds for digitisation concepts to implement heat transition and value-added applications for buildings, campuses, neighbourhoods and municipalities in the Northwest.
Heat transition as a building block for achieving climate goals
The German government has set a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent by 2050 compared to 1990 levels. Space heating, process heat and hot water account for about half of energy consumption in Germany. In order to achieve the climate targets, it is therefore also necessary to redesign the heat supply, i.e. to drive forward a heat turnaround.
Building and process heat, both in the private and in the commercial and industrial sectors, should release significantly less carbon dioxide in the future. In addition to switching from fossil to renewable energies, the overall heat consumption must also be reduced. In addition to the renovation of buildings, digitalisation also plays a central role here.
Project contents Heat Turnaround Northwest (WWNW)
With the research project Wärmewende Nordwest (Heat Turnaround Northwest), coordinated by the Oldenburg-based computer science institute OFFIS, the digitalisation of the heat turnaround in the northwest around the Oldenburg/Bremen region is now to be practically researched and digital concepts integrated into the heating sector.
In the medium term, the smart meter infrastructure currently being rolled out nationwide will play an important role in the transparent recording and optimisation of heat demand in buildings, neighbourhoods, commerce and industry. It ensures secure and reliable IT networking of all decentralised components and the associated sector coupling (networking of the various sectors of the energy industry, such as electricity, heating or cooling). The open and cross-sector usability of the gateway communication enables the integration and incorporation of a wide range of processes and information sources for CO2 reduction in the heat transition.
The project is implemented in six research fields and two cross-sectional activities:
Research field 1 "Regional online platform for energy efficiency optimisation and business models" pursues the goal of generating a regional platform for the exchange of knowledge and best practices for the energy efficiency optimisation of real estate as well as the referral of interested parties to providers of corresponding measures and financing and funding programmes.
In research field 2, "Secure gateways and routers as a basis for value-added services", the focus of the study is on value-added services for the residential sector based on a BSI-compliant infrastructure in accordance with the Act on the Digitisation of the Energy Transition.
Research field 3 "Digitised experimental campus building physics" fully digitises different buildings on a university campus area so that they serve as a reference for future new buildings and renovations in the university landscape in Germany and beyond.
In Research Field 4 "Experimental Campus Sustainable Heat Transition", innovative cooling and heating systems of a university campus are to be realised in order to research sector coupling at campus level.
In research field 5 "Transformation strategies for urban district and local heating supply systems", a process for developing heating supply systems for neighbourhoods is being developed using the example of Bremen.
Research field 6 "Climate-friendly heat supply for municipalities" develops a concept for a renewable energy and heat register and implements it using exemplary municipal properties.
Furthermore, two necessary cross-cutting topics will be advanced in parallel:
Cross-cutting activity 1: The practice-relevant research fields will be integrated through a digital heat transition platform and enriched with digital value-added services, taking into account central aspects such as data protection, IT security and security of supply.
Cross-cutting activity 2: Training and qualification measures for engineers and computer scientists will be developed in a practical manner for the qualified installation, operation and further development of these technologies.
Role of OLEC
In its role as a regional energy network, the Oldenburg Energy Cluster OLEC e.V. shapes the transfer of knowledge and technology in the project context. The establishment of a transfer structure ensures that the individual solutions are prepared in a generally understandable way and designed with regard to their transregional transferability in planning, installation and operation. Innovations from the research fields are highlighted and transformative ideas derived in order to offer scalable products and applications in the area. By communicating the results and involving different stakeholders in the form of workshops and public events, OLEC contributes to making the tested solutions and concepts visible and integrating them into the strategic planning of regional cooperation in the thematic field of heat transition and sector coupling. Beyond regional knowledge networking and the further development of the Northwest Energy Region, the project is thus intended to make a contribution to the heat transition in Germany.