Sector coupling: The future of the energy transition

Fraunhofer is pushing the digitalization of the energy industry

Press Release /

The reduction of CO2 emissions is one of the most urgent challenges of our times. It is an elementary factor when it comes to leading the energy transition to sustainable success. In this context, the optimal use of different energy sources plays as much a role as the sophisticated coordination of energy provision and energy consumption on site. The Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft is making great strides in the development of an open, secure, and scalable system solution, with the ideal solution being fully integrated and automated sector coupling. For this purpose, it has founded the association “Open District Hub e.V.” together with renowned business partners. Fraunhofer IESE from Kaiserslautern is also on board.

© Tom Maelsa

“The energy supply in Germany and Europe is currently subject to an enormous transition process. If our society wants to achieve the CO2 minimization goals agreed in the climate protection agreement, the annual emission of greenhouse gases must decrease by an additional three to five percent starting from 2020”, explains Prof. Georg Rosenfeld, member of the Board of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft for the area of Technology Marketing and Business Models. “To solve this challenge, fully integrated and automated sector coupling at the district level using locally generated renewable energies can make a decisive contribution.” Fraunhofer is extensively involved in this necessary and consistent application of new digitalization strategies to the energy industry. The smart coupling of the sectors electricity, heating/cooling supply, and mobility in terms of the individual needs of the residents of urban districts opens up completely new opportunities for combining existing single solutions into an open, secure, and scalable system solution in an economically and ecologically sensible manner. At the same time, this allows developing suitable regulatory constraints, for in addition to technological innovation, new approaches are also required in politics and governance as well as in terms of societal acceptance.

Completely new business models for the energy market

“The researchers of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft have excellent expertise in the areas of energy, real estate, mobility, and digital technologies. In order to master the next phase of the energy transition, we must interlink industries with each other, transfer technologies, and involve partners along the entire value creation network”, declares Prof. Jürgen Beyerer, director of the Fraunhofer Institute of Optronics, System Technologies and Image Exploitation IOSB. With the association Open District Hub e.V., the framework is being created for bundling the interests of the entire value creation network of urban district supply, including electricity, heat, air conditioning, and mobility. The basis for the project “Open District Hub”, which was developed under the leadership of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, are state-of-the-art technologies and research results as well as digital innovations – including, for example, a self-learning energy management system as well as a digital blockchain market place and a cyber-security concept based on Artificial Intelligence.

“Beyond the ecological aspect of regional, climate-friendly supply, our approach also offers promising economic exploitation aspects”, says project manager Dr. Karsten Schmidt, Corporate Business Development Manager Energy at Fraunhofer. “New business models can be developed for the real estate industry as a provider of energy and mobility services, as well as for the manufacturers of renewable, decentralized generation facilities such as photovoltaics, storage systems, or heat pumps. Classical energy supply companies will get new possibilities to revitalize their existing business.”

The 14 founding members of “Open District Hub e.V.”

The association Open District Hub e.V. was founded on 9 April 2018 by the following 14 founding members: DSK Deutsche Stadt- und Grundstücksentwicklungsgesellschaft mbH & Co. KG, eLoaded GmbH, EnBW Energie Baden-Württemberg AG, fortiss GmbH, Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft e.V., GETEC ENERGIE HOLDING GmbH, inno2grid GmbH, Jost Energy AG, PricewaterhouseCoopers GmbH Wirtschaftsprüfungsgesellschaft, Sortimo Innovationspark Zusmarshausen GmbH, Schneider Electric GmbH, Thüga AG, Viessmann Deutschland GmbH, and Vonovia SE. The association’s registered office is in Berlin. The Munich-based office of the Open District Hub e.V. started its operation immediately after the foundation of the association.