Frankfurt on the Main at night; Source: MACIEJ NOSKOWSKI


Present situation in energy terms

The building sector has a key role to play in the energy transition in terms of developing potential for efficiency and integrating renewable energy into the heat sector. In recent years, there has been a move away from buildings which only consume energy: buildings and urban areas are now providing a growing share of needs-based, distributed sources of heating, cooling and electricity. Here, an increasing role is played by the systematic interaction of buildings, neighbourhoods and energy infrastructure.

Research network - Energy in Buildings and Districts

In order to respond to this development, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy has set up the "Research network - Energy in Buildings and Districts" and brought together related funding areas in it. The research network's main tasks are to make research funding more efficient and put results into practice more quickly. The focus is on strategic networks of stakeholders: representatives from business and industry, the scientific community and the main multipliers intensify their dialogue at the interfaces of research, practice and policymaking. The research network's first annual conference took place on 26 and 27 March 2015, with more than 200 participants.

The work in the research network is backed by a call by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy for tenders for scientific backing for the many funding measures (some 500 ongoing research projects; budgeted funding of €70m/year). Scientific project consortia are asked to submit meaningful project sketches by 5 June 2015.

Technology development and the funding structure

Energy-optimised building is based on the concept of the "building of the future", which focuses on the realisation of energy-optimised, sustainable, functional, comfortable and architecturally valuable buildings at reasonable investment and operating costs. The funding aims to develop the technology further in terms of the efficiency of building technology, taking into account life-cycle analysis and the need to conserve resources. The substance and the goals of the research funding in this field are described in the Energy-optimised Buildings funding concept. The project funding covers research, development, demonstration and pilot projects. 

Solar thermal energy can be used in conjunction with energy-efficient building and in combination with other forms of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies to make an important contribution towards a sustainable, secure and environmentally friendly supply of heating and cooling. Key preconditions for this include a further significant cost reduction in the solar energy systems, better systems integration, and a clear demonstration that primary energy consumption is cut. The research funding is focused particularly on the systems technology of low-temperature solar thermal energy for solar heating, and integration into buildings, including heat storage. In addition to research projects, the funding also covers pilot and demonstration plants in selected fields, including a scientific monitoring project. 

Energy-efficient heating and cooling networks can generate a lot of potential for efficiency. Calculated scenarios show that approx. 50% of the heat required could be delivered via heat networks in 2050. The funding aims to improve pipeline-based delivery systems for heating and cooling in terms of primary energy, exergy, economy and environmental friendliness. This includes both district heating systems and distributed supply structures. The funding is subdivided into research and development, and demonstration and pilot projects. 

Solar thermal power offers new possibilities for well-developed district heating networks in urban conurbations. It can both replace fossil fuels and substantially improve the economic viability of district heating, particularly in the summer months. For this reason, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy is concentrating its funding for the solarisation heating networks on concept development, demonstration and project monitoring and evaluation. 

Under the "Energy-efficient City" (EnEff:Stadt) funding priority, innovative, locally-based holistic solutions for higher energy efficiency and for the integration of renewable energy are being funded. These solutions also have to be integrated in a long-term strategy covering the entire urban area. Specifically, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy is providing funding for model, cost-optimised neighbourhood concepts, selected aspects of their realisation, and the related scientific evaluation. The intention is to speed up the necessary processes of transformation in urban energy supply structures, by overcoming current impediments to the realisation of large-scale energy efficiency projects. The substance and the goals of the research funding in this field are described in detail in the Energy-efficient City funding concept. Once again, the funding covers research and development, and demonstration and pilot projects.

The high level of interdependency between the research fields of buildings, the neighbourhood, and distributed and solar energy supply necessitates substantive networking and a cross-sectoral information exchange which is delivered by interdisciplinary scientific research accompanying the project. Alongside analyses and cross-sectoral evaluations, it is also designed to support the transfer of information and knowledge within the research network.

Strategically important funding areas

In the field of energy-optimised building, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy funds the development of components for highly efficient, innovative technologies, particularly destined for broad use in measures to improve the energy performance of buildings, with a view to paving the way for market penetration. Systematic analyses taking the whole life cycle into account (manufacture - planning - construction - operation - recycling) are undertaken with a view to boosting energy efficiency with a special focus on the operating phase and energy-related optimisation via low-investment measures.

In addition to developments in individual technologies, the transfer for research findings into demonstration projects plays a particularly important role in the building sector. Alongside the use of innovative components, a focus is on energy-related operational optimisation by means of low-investment measures. Also, there are concepts for system-friendly buildings in the urban context, with a view to sensible use as an energy sink, energy source or energy store in local energy supply systems. In the context of demonstration and pilot projects, the priority is on the study of typologies in the non-residential sector (particularly hotels, swimming pools, hospitals, special buildings, production sites). A particular focus is placed on energy-efficient educational facilities ("EnEff:Schule").

In the solar thermal funding area, the focus is on lowering costs in systems technology for solar heating, on systems technology for low-temperature solar thermal energy in the building sector, and on solar cooling in competition with electricity-based cooling systems.

Priority research topics in the field of "Energy-efficient heating and cooling networks" (EnEff:Wärme) are: CHP, heating and cooling generation technologies, heat exchanger systems, waste heat utilisation, LowEx systems and components, pipeline and laying technology, building hand-overs and adapted building technologies, metering technology, ICT and smart metering, novel heat media, novel networks, structures and operational modes, simulation and planning aids, and overall systems optimisation. In the context of demonstration projects, funding is going towards highly innovative and model systems involving the buildings to be supplied. The implementation can address both novel energy systems and exegeticimprovements in existing systems. The latter are intended to help to expand the supply of district heating in areas already covered and in areas with a low heat density. The funding helps to support innovative planning concepts and components, and subsequent metering programmes with operational optimisation. 

In its funding towards the solarisation of heating networks, the Federal Ministry for Economic affairs and Energy is focusing on the following areas: the development of systems, concepts for network hydraulics; inclusion; calculation bases; safeguarding the yield from networks in highly dense urban settlements; the development of standardised distributed solar feed-in stations; and the regulation and wiring up of collector fields for constant outlet temperatures. This includes the development and demonstration of "cold" heating networks (30-50C) with reheating via heat pumps in the building and of solar heating networks in rural areas in combination with other heat sources. 

Research into the Energy-efficient City (EnEff:Stadt) is concentrated on the development and testing of holistic planning and optimisation methods and on integrated planning aids for urban neighbourhoods. This includes the reflection of the actual situation and balancing of energy requirements in terms of energy-related and economic aspects, and the simulation of various decision-making paths. The focus is on the optimisation of the overall system and on user acceptance. In the demonstration and pilot projects, a systematic approach towards energy-based optimisation at neighbourhood level is taken. This particularly includes the transfer of research and development findings and the testing of newly developed technologies and planning aids. On the basis of a permanent Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation in the field of research, development and demonstration of smart, energy-efficient cities of the future in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, cross-border (D-A-CH) research cooperation is possible. Such projects will be given priority where they fulfil the national funding guidelines.

The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy supports the development of a European Energy Olympiad and promotes national contributions towards participation in and securing the future of the European "Solar Decathlon Europe" competition format.

Sample projects

Sample projects can be found on the website of the research initiative for energy-optimised building.

Sample projects can be found on the website of the EnEff:Stadt and EnEff:Wärme research initiatives.