Two of our researchers, Dr Marko Aunedi and Dr Marco Pantaleo, recently attended the 14th Conference on Sustainable Development of Energy, Water and Environment Systems (SDEWES) in Dubrovnik. They were there to present their work on integrating heating and electricity systems by using technologies such as electric heat pumps, boilers and thermal storage. They have written us a post about the work and the event.
It was a great opportunity to make the trip to Croatia for this year’s SDEWES meeting. It is a key conference in the calendar for people interested in sustainable development. In particular, it focuses on de-coupling growth from the use of natural resources and a transition to a knowledge-based economy.
This year the event attracted almost 600 scientists, researchers, and experts to discuss a wide range of methods, policies and technologies in the field of sustainable development. The two of us were there to present some of our work from the IDLES programme.
IDLES is looking at what we consider one of the main routes to achieve sustainable development, systems and technologies integration. You can greatly improve whole system efficiency by integrating various sub-systems/technologies and using excess output from one side as input resource in another side in the appropriate moment and at specific location. IDLES focus is on temporally and spatially explicit optimisation of whole energy systems. This encompasses electricity, natural gas, hydrogen, biofuels, water and waste (with wastewater as a key focus). It also includes networks and infrastructures from one side (energy, transport networks), and a detailed modelling of demand and demand response strategies on the other side (in residential, commercial, industrial, urban and rural sectors).
We were in Dubrovnik to discuss our work on opportunities for integration between heating and electricity systems by using technologies like electric heat pumps, boilers and thermal storage. We believe they can provide additional flexibility to support the integration of low-carbon energy generation.
The heart of the presentation was our proposed framework for finding cost-efficient, low-carbon solutions for supplying and storing heat in district heating systems. However, it also takes into account local and national-level interactions between heat and electricity infrastructures.
The objective of our approach is to cost-optimise the portfolio of heat supply technologies, including Combined Heat and Power, large-scale heat pumps, gas boilers and thermal energy storage. It is implemented as a mixed-integer linear programming optimisation model that minimises net cost of heat supply, taking into account investment and operation cost of heat supply and storage options as well as the impact of local and wider interactions with the electricity system.
To see our work in action Charts 1 and 2 show how the decisions to invest into and operate heating infrastructure assets change when considering a local electricity grid that includes a constraint that limits how much power can be drawn by a large-scale heat pump during peak hours.
In Chart 1 (the constrained case) it is efficient to add 60% more of thermal storage capacity and use the additional flexibility to reduce the heat output of large-scale heat pump, and thus avoid overloading the local grid during peak demand periods.
In Chart 2 (where there is no constraint) it is possible to draw maximum power from the grid to operate the large-scale heat pump even during peak hours, which means less thermal storage is required to top up the heat pump output to meet peak heating demand.
We were extremely happy with the reception we got at the meeting. Some of the feedback pointed us towards possible future enhancements of the model, improving how we include things like Combined Heat and Power technologies, heat pumps and heat storage. What we also found that the conference reinforced our view that coupling different energy sectors or even coupling energy with other sectors can bring efficiency and cost gains when pursuing national and global decarbonisation objectives, as opposed to ‘silo’ i.e. sector-limited thinking.
Decarbonisation of our energy supply presents numerous challenges, but also opportunities for system integration between different sectors. Our ambition with IDLES is to explore the potential benefits of integrated design of complex energy systems in the context of full decarbonisation of the energy sector. This means that certain flexible options in one energy subsector (such as e.g. heat storage) could have significant whole-system value that materialises in another subsector (i.e. electricity system). Meetings like SDEWES shows that there is keen international community looking at this problem and if we can all work together maybe we can make the energy transition event quicker.
Dr Marko Aunedi and Dr Marco Pantaleo are both Researcher Co-Investigators in the IDLES programme, coordinating research efforts across Projects 1, 2 and 4.
Dr Marko Aunedi
Marko is a Research Associate at Imperial College London with research background in energy system modelling and optimisation. His research focuses on system integration of renewables and low-carbon technologies, impact assessment of heat and transport electrification, integrated whole-energy system modelling, impact of flexible demand on low-carbon energy systems and the benefits of energy storage technologies.
He has led Imperial’s work in a number of European and UK-based research projects focused on energy system flexibility and grid impact of transport and heat decarbonisation. He has also worked on strategic energy system studies for industrial partners and public sector bodies including the CCC, BEIS, Ofgem and Carbon Trust. He collaborates regularly as an external expert with a number of international organisations including the UNFCCC Secretariat, IAEA, IEA and IRENA.
Dr Marco Pantaleo
Marco is a Research fellow at Imperial College London with research background in energy system modelling and thermo-economic optimization of renewable energy technologies. His research focuses on integration of low-carbon technologies and energy infrastructures, hybrid gas/solar/biomass conversion systems, waste heat recovery and energy efficiency technologies in industrial sector, integration of energy storage to increase the flexibility of generation assets.
He has participated as part of Imperial team to a number of European and UK-based research projects focused on biomass energy, urban energy systems, waste heat recovery, hybrid integrated cogeneration technologies. He has also worked on strategic energy system studies for industrial partners including EDF UK and BP. He collaborates as an external expert with a number of international organisations including the European Commission and Italian Ministry of Research.