European Technology and Innovation Platform

Small, modular and renewable heating grids for South-Eastern Europe

By Dominik Rutz, Rita Mergner, Rainer Janssen, WIP Renewable Energies



The heating and cooling demand in Europe accounts for around half of the EU’s final energy consumption. Renewable energy policies often focus mainly on the electricity market, whereas policies for renewable heating and cooling are usually much weaker. Therefore, it is important to support and promote renewable heating and cooling concepts. 

Small modular district heating/cooling grids can have several positive impacts on the local economy, employment, service for consumers, etc. They can be fed by different heat sources, including solar, biomass and surplus heat.

Especially the combination of solar heating and biomass heating is a very promising strategy for smaller rural communities due to its contribution to security of supply, price stability, local economic development, local employment, etc. On the one hand, solar heating requires no fuel and on the other hand biomass heating can store energy and release it during winter when there is less solar heat available. Thereby, heat storage (buffer tanks for short-term storage and seasonal tanks/basins for long-term storage) needs to be integrated. With increasing shares of fluctuating renewable electricity production (PV, wind), the Power-to-Heat conversion through heat pumps can furthermore help to balance the power grid. If the planning process is done in a sustainable way, small modular district heating/cooling grids have the advantage, that at the beginning only part of the system can be realised and additional heat sources and consumers can be added later. This modularity requires well planning and appropriate dimensioning of the equipment (e.g. pipes). It reduces the initial demand for investment and can grow steadily.

The objective of the CoolHeating project, funded by the EU’s Horizon2020 programme, is to support the implementation of "small modular renewable heating and cooling grids" for communities in South-Eastern Europe. This is achieved through knowledge transfer and mutual activities of partners in countries where renewable district heating and cooling examples exist (Austria, Denmark, Germany) and in countries which have less development (Croatia, Slovenia, Macedonia, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina). Core activities, besides techno-economical assessments, include measures to stimulate the interest of communities and citizens to set-up renewable district heating systems as well as the capacity building about financing and business models. The outcome is the initiation of new small renewable district heating and cooling grids in 5 target communities up to the investment stage. These lighthouse projects will have a long-term impact on the development of "small modular renewable heating and cooling grids" at the national levels in the target countries.

Project partners: 

  • PlanEnergi, Denmark
  • Güssing Energy Technologies GmbH, Austria
  • University of Zagreb, Croatia
  • Skupina fabrika d.o.o., Slovenia
  • International Center for Sustainable Development of Energy, Water and Environment Systems - Macedonian section, Macedonia
  • School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Serbia
  • Elektroprivreda, Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Municipality of of Sabac, Serbia
  • Municipality of Visoko, Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Municipality of Ljutomer, Slovenia

Further information is available here.

Please click here to download the project presentation.