[Publication] 5th generation district heating and cooling systems as a solution for renewable urban thermal energy supply

District heating and cooling systems are a viable sustainable solution to provide heat and cold in urban environments. In this paper, experts describe fifth generation district heating and cooling (5GDHC) systems and show how this concept differs from conventional district heating systems.

A 5GDHC system is decentralized, bi-directional, close to ground temperature networks that use direct exchange of warm and cold return flows and thermal storage to balance thermal demand as much as possible. 5GDHC offers a way to incorporate low temperature renewable heat sources including shallow geothermal energy, as well as reduce total demand by recuperating generated heat from cooling and generated cold from heating. The large scale of 5GDHC allows for optimal design of technical parts like heat pumps and thermal storage vessels, while increasing overall system efficiency by incorporating a large variety of supply and demand profiles. This paper provides a definition for 5GDHC and shows how this concept differs from conventional district heating systems. The Mijnwater system in Heerlen, the Netherlands is showing what a city-level 5GDHC system can look like, while the european project D2Grids aims at rolling out this promising technology.


Stef Boesten1, Wilfried Ivens1, Stefan C. Dekker1,2, and Herman Eijdems3

1Department of Science, Open Universiteit, Heerlen, the Netherlands

2Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development, Utrecht University, Utrecht, the Netherlands

3Mijnwater B.V., Heerlen, the Netherlands


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Moderated by : Construction21 Communication

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