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Accommodating the constant evolution of Positive Energy Districts

Accommodating the constant evolution of Positive Energy Districts

Interoperable solutions to streamline Positive Energy District evolution and cross-sectoral integration

Context and Challenge

The built environment is key to the EU’s transition to a climate-neutral society by 2050.

An estimated 97% of dwellings are not fit for this purpose. A clean energy system and a just transition require more than isolated technological solutions for individual buildings.

To optimally decarbonise the urban environment, it is crucial to implement fully interoperable solutions at the neighbourhood level, that improve energy efficiency and integrate local renewable energy sources and excess heat more effectively.

A Positive Energy District (PED) is an urban area that produces at least as much energy on an annual basis as it consumes.

What is PEDvolution?

PEDvolution paves the way for cross-sectoral integration of ever-evolving Positive Energy Districts (PEDs). European pioneers in PED conceptualisation, implementation and tool development will materialise this through the co-development and implementation of seven interoperable solutions accommodating the constant evolution of PEDs: (1) PED Design and Planning Toolset, (2) Dynamic Decision Support Guideline for PED Development, (3)  PED Energy Manager, (4) Data Exchange, Integration and Interoperability Platform, (5) PED Business Models Innovation Tool, (6) Social Innovation tool and (7) PED Readiness Assessment.  The solutions will evaluate and improve the ‘PED Readiness Level’ according to the four genes of the PED genotype: social, technology, interoperability, and market, which in their turn are influenced by their interaction within the PED and its environment (PED phenotype). At least six real-life PEDs across Europe will provide a demonstration and validation environment for the solutions, paving the way for replication, upscaling and mainstreaming.

PEDvolution concept

Horizon Europe PEDvolution project

Project Start Date: 01/01/2024
Project End date: 31/12/2026

 7 Interoperable solutions

PED Design and Planning Toolset

A Digital Twin planning tool to empower developers and managers to accelerate district development pathways towards achieving or further evolving a PED. The tool will provide accurate energy models of buildings and district assets as a basis to generate renovation pathways along district heating / cooling grids based on local conditions.

Dynamic Decision Support Guideline

Targeted guidelines and efficient workflow for PED development decisions related to the choice of technologies and strategies with respect to urban planning, energy efficiency and integration of local renewable energy sources.

PED Energy Manager

Multi-level toolset for efficient management of energy processes within PEDs. Controls energy processes in residential and non-residential environments, assesses and extracts flexibility, optimises the operation in multi-sector environments and exploits flexibility on several energy and flexibility markets.

Data Exchange, Integration and Interoperability Platform

The PEDvolution interoperability platform will comprise the digital backbone of the PEDvolution approach, providing a central node for trustworthy exchange of data, access to sophisticated PED design, planning, management and flexibility tools, thus enabling effective sector integration targeted to a multitude of energy and non-energy carriers (for instance, mobility and water). 

PED Business Models Innovation Tool

A set of building blocks, known as ‘business model patterns,’ that have been proven successful in community-based business solutions. The tool’s process will show PEDs how to adapt business model patterns to the local context and combine them to create promising business models.

PED Social Innovation tool

A methodology that allows users to assess the state of the community and to understand the priorities, values and views of different stakeholders or actors to design an energy solution or related activities to be compatible with local needs. The aim is to contribute to long lasting adoption of planned or existing energy innovation in a PED.

PED Readiness Assessment

Α systematic process of monitoring and determining the performance of a neighbourhood or district, in relation to the essential characteristics of a Positive Energy District.

3 PED Co-Developer Demonstrators

Several PEDs will demonstrate the PEDvolution solutions to promote replication, upscaling, and mainstreaming. Three demonstrators, located in Germany Slovenia and Switzerland, are partnering in the consortium from the beginning as co-developers of the solutions. As such, they participate in all project phases of the project to support the solution developers, e.g. by providing insights on the stakeholder needs, performance requirements, etc. Besides the three PED co-developers, at least three additional demonstrators across Europe will be identified and selected through an open call in the second half of the project.

Schönbrunn village Wunsiedel, Germany2024-07-16T10:23:58+02:00

Status: In operation
Size covered: 6,709,386.4 m² / 6.71 km²
No. of residents: 1,230
No. of households/apartments: 400 households
No. of businesses: 9
Relevant PEDvolution Partners: SWW, ZENOB, ESG

A small village, driven by locally produced renewable energy in several sectors including heat, electricity and transport, including the utilisation of locally produced pellets as energy source for heating networks. This way local knowledge and competences are used and enhanced. The heating network currently serves around 180 households, with capacity to cover the entire village. The cogeneration unit (CHP) combined with the distributed PV production supply renewable electricity and heat. Innovative multi-vector storage facilities and trunks between neighbouring villages enable this PED to grow vertically and horizontally.

Following the vertically nested system architecture, this site participates in the next-level PED, encompassing the whole SWW network, where a multitude of municipalities participate in the ZENOB coalition, exchange flexibilities between themselves and jointly offer services to the highest-level grid operators.

Key Stakeholders:

  • SWW Wunsiedel GmbH: DSO and district heating operator
  • ZENOB: Joint venture promoting and financing innovative energy solutions
  • Local brewery in Schönbrunn: Energy and storage provider
  • WUNpellet: Producer and supplier of pellets for Schönbrunn CHP
  • District heating network customers: Residential and business

Roadmap for the PED development of Schönbrunn village, Wunsiedel, Germany:

  • Existing and new RES installations to be equipped with automated AI-based controls from the PED Energy Manager toolset, delivering automated control and optimisation while integrated with the local grid through the Interoperability platform.
  • Efficient operation of assets will allow additional customers to utilise the district heating network and replace energy sources with renewables.
  • Every building shall become part of the PED, supporting the energy generation and storage facility.
  • Identification of surplus energy in the local environment, channelled to heating and electricity storage facilitates, further improving overall performance and reducing the need for investments.
  • Starting from Schönbrunn PED all SWW RES and cross-vector assets, especially in the energy park, will be integrated in the next level approach: SWW PED.

End goal: After building the SWW PED, the aim is to establish the ultimate PED on a regional level, i.e., the ZENOB PED.

Residential neighbourhood Planina, Kranj, Slovenia2024-07-16T10:35:41+02:00

Status: In planning stage
Size covered: 740,000 m²
No. of residents: 16,000
No. of households/apartments: 4,300 apartments
No. of businesses: 40 businesses
Relevant PEDvolution Partners: EG, GEK

Situated in Kranj, Slovenia’s third-largest city, the Planina residential neighbourhood stands as the largest residential area not only in Kranj but also in the broader Gorenjska region, accommodating approximately 16,000 residents across its expansive 74-hectare landscape. To meet the heating demands of this community, the Planina neighbourhood relies on the Planina communal boiler house, which currently boasts two boilers with a combined capacity of 17 MW, fuelled by natural gas. Additionally, the facility features two CHP aggregators, enabling the simultaneous generation of electricity and heat.

In the nearby Labore industrial zone, waste heat is abundantly produced as a by-product of industrial processes, presenting a valuable resource. A fraction of this heat can be directly employed for district heating, while innovative methods, like heat pumps extracting waste heat from low-temperature dirty condensate, can harness the remainder. This surplus heat is directed towards supplying the adjacent Planina district heating network. Additionally, there are ongoing initiatives to integrate an electric boiler into the Planina boiler house, ensuring the smooth operation of system services, notably negative secondary control.

The Planina Energy District (PED) comprises two hydropower plants, the use of waste heat from the Labore industrial zone, numerous rooftop photovoltaic installations, a Combined Heat and Power (CHP) system with a surplus heat capacity of 5 MW, system services facilitated by an electric boiler, and strategically located electric vehicle charging stations.

Key stakeholders:

  • Municipality of Kranj: The municipality of Kranj owns the land where the “Planina Kranj” boiler house is situated, and it is actively engaged in the 100 Climate Neutral Cities initiative.
  • Elektro Gorenjska, d. d. (EG): electricity distribution system operator
  • Gorenjske elektrarne, d. o. o. (GEK): renewable energy resources generation and energy management company
  • Domplan: district heating and natural gas network operator
  •  Companies in the industrial zone: enable the utilization of waste heat
  • Community: inhabitants as well as resident businesses

Roadmap for the PED development of the Residential neighbourhood Planina, Kranj, Slovenia:

  • Existing industrial components for low-temperature dirty condensate inside will be equipped with calorimeters to determine precise temperatures whereas PEDvolution toolset will calculate accurate waste-heat energy output.
  • Nearby hydropower plants will be virtually connected to the PED. A new energy community will provide renewable energy with long-term fixed electricity prices to reduce risks related to energy markets.
  • Excess heat not used in the industrial process will be transferred to a second nearby PED for the possibility of completely excluding the need for natural gas which is currently used for the district heating of 4,300 households.
  • Integrate an electric boiler into the Planina boiler house, ensuring smooth operation of system services, notably negative secondary control.
  • New software solutions integrated with the PEDvolution toolset will be implemented to allow automatic dynamic demand response of individual buildings and industrial equipment in order to most cost-efficiently adapt to the upcoming new tariff system.

End goal : The creation of a new energy community together with citizens and industrial partners, who provide excess heat for optimal revenue distribution and sharing of benefits.

Gemeinschaft Hard, Winterthur, Switzerland2024-07-16T10:36:02+02:00

Status: In operation
Size covered: 80,000 m²
No. of residents: 250
No. of households/apartments: 45 apartments
No. of businesses: 40 businesses
Relevant PEDvolution Partners: WIN, ZHAW

A residential and commercial community on the edge of the 6th largest city in Switzerland, the city of Winterthur. The Hard community in Winterthur consists of the residents and employees of 45 apartments and around 40 businesses whose common goals focus around preserving the ecological, cultural, and historical values of the community and its surroundings.

The Hard hydroelectric power station supplies electricity through the grid for in total around 725 households i.e. more energy production than just for the Hard community. A solar plant and gas boiler generate heat while, since the end of 2021, the site has been producing its own electrical energy with an attached photovoltaic plant. In addition, charging stations for several electric vehicles are available on the nearby parking field. All households and businesses are coupled to smart meters for metering energy use through the regional DSO.

The PEDvolution project encourages:

  • Energy cost reduction by the implementation of an energy community
  • Reduction in the use of fossil resources by increasing the share of renewable energy in the individual areas by 30-50%
  • Reduction of CO2 emissions through the use of PV systems, heat pumps and electric vehicles, which can achieve an annual savings potential of 10-30 t CO2 per year
  • Increase of the acceptance of and enthusiasm for solar energy, e-vehicles and sharing.

Key stakeholders:

  • Hard Community: inhabitants as well as resident businesses
  • Stadtwerke Winterthur: the local DSO providing the energy infrastructure and regulatory boundaries
  • City of Winterthur: public authority taking care of the implementation of the local energy and climate concept to achieve net zero by 2040
  • ZHAW Zurich University of Applied Sciences: local science partner supporting the implementation of PEDvolution with applied research
  • Local service organisations: providing technologies and manpower for the PED implementation

Roadmap for the PED development of Hard Community in Winterthur, Switzerland:

  • Expansion of the photovoltaic system on additional roofs.
  • Expansion of e-mobility, shared mobility options.
  • Creation of self-sufficient communities of single buildings towards.
  • From gas central heating to a central heat pump heating.
  • Inclusion of services from DSO and from local community.

End goal: Α complete integration of renewable energy sources (hydropower, PV systems) with the energy usage (heat pump, general electricity, electric vehicles) in the Hard Community in Winterthur.


Specific Needs

  • Improve energy efficiency coupled with a better integration of local renewables and local excess heat sources within the districts.
  • Increase citizen participation and integration of consumers and energy communities in the value chain of the energy system.
  • Improve cross-sectoral integration on energy and non-energy sectors within PEDs.
  • Demonstrate fully interoperable solutions for planning, design, development, and management of PEDs.


Expected Results

  • Increased availability of tools, guides and interoperable solutions for planning, design, development, and management of PEDs.
  • Improved integration of energy and non-energy sectors within PEDs.
  • Improved integration of PEDs in energy systems and improved contribution of PEDs to energy grid robustness regarding dependencies to energy supplies.
  • Increased social entrepreneurship and citizen participation and engagement in energy communities.
  • Increased participation of consumers and energy communities in the value chain of the energy system.

Who is it for?

  • Energy service providers (ESCOs)
  • Mobility service providers
  • Residents / Energy consumers / End users
  • Energy Prosumers
  • PED developers and managers
  • PED investors (e.g. banks, real estate developers and owners, regional funders)
  • Local Authorities and City Planners
  • Regional Authorities
  • Policy makers
  • Standardisation bodies
  • General public
Builder in hard hat holding notes on construction site


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