08.2021 - 12.2023

Future Strategy for District Heating

Comparative analysis of practicable measures for district heating transformation and procedure for creating an implementable transformation strategy

From 01. August 2021 until 31.12.2023, the project “Future Strategy for District Heating” started, which was conducted by FfE GmbH.


The aim of the research project “Future Strategy for District Heating” was to develop suitable structures, guidelines and a publicly available knowledge platform to facilitate the creation of a practicable district heating and overall heat transformation strategy. These aims were reached, based on knowledge from extensive literature research and discussion practical as well as scientific experts combined with practical projects of the FfE on district heating and heat transformation. The knowledge was recorded in three sub-reports (see download below), the contents of which are shortly presented here.

The expert discussions included workshops in the District Heating Competence Network , a four-year at least quarterly exchange on measures for the transformation of district heating networks, with 9 district heating operators. In addition, the results of the project were discussed annually with an expert transfer group from science, industry as well as political consulting and thus mirrored with the results of other stakeholders. In addition, two public events in person and a final online event were held in which the knowledge gained and practical examples from suppliers were discussed with around 70 participants.

Sub-report 1 “Future Strategy for District Heating – comparative analysis of practical measures for district heating transformation and procedure for creating an implementable strategy”

The project content included the intensive practical reflection of the guideline drawn up by the FfE for the creation of a district heating transformation strategy (see Figure 1) as well as the analysis of obstacles and solutions for the creation of the strategy and the implementation of district heating transformation.

Figure 1: Guideline created for the creation of a transformation strategy

As part of the project, various methods for regionalized prioritization between different supply solutions were reflected on the basis of the literature and FfE practical projects. Additionally, a generalized process for regionalized prioritization between different supply solutions was developed (see Figure 2). Furthermore, the FfE visualization methodology for the prioritization of transformation measures for district heating was tested for practical use and thus improved.

Figure 2: Stepwise approach for regionalized prioritization of supply solutions

In order to be able to further develop existing strategies in a targeted manner, the level of detail in the FfE description of the maturity levels of a transformation strategy (see Figure 3) was increased. This makes it possible to assess the strengths and weaknesses of individual district heating operators in relation to their transformation strategy.

Figure 3: Basic integration of transformation strategies into maturity levels

Furthermore, the FfE model for the analytical derivation of a holistic district heating as well as heat transformation strategy (developed in the project “Climate Neutral Heat Supply in Munich 2035“) was further developed and important findings were made available to the public. The model, which is implemented in the programming language Python, is called FfE-Heat transformation tool and its extended version was used in the municipal heat planning for Stuttgart.

Sub-report 2 “District heating transformation measures – profiles, practical classification and system repercussions”

From feasibility studies and research projects existing profiles for transformation measures were prepared for individual workshops in the District Heating Competence Network  and intensively discussed with the participants. In “Future Strategy for District Heating” this knowledge was reflected beyond the discussions among the participants and documented for others to understand. It is made publicly accessible in the report at the bottom of the homepage.

Sub-report 3 “White Paper District Heating Competence Network – practical guidelines for the successful implementation of a network for knowledge building and exchange between district heating suppliers”

Finally, based on the experience gained in the first District Heating Competence Network, in the third report experiences and suggestions are provided for the implementation of further District Heating Competence Networks (see Figure 4 for its structure). This should enable more intense exchange between district heating operators and experts for different transformation measures in order to fasten to the success of the district heating transformation.

Figure 4: Step-by-step process of a district heating network


The project was funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate protection (BMWK) as part of the 7th Energy Research Program (funding code 03EN3043).

In addition to the BMWK, the utility EnBW and the association AGFW as industrial partners supported the research project both financially and with practical experience.


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