Research Program Heat Transition

The heating and cooling of buildings and the supply of hot water and process heating and cooling account for more than half of Germany’s final energy consumption. The energy transition in the area of supplying heat and cold, the so-called heat transition, is thus central to a climate-neutral energy system.

An important challenge in the area of the heat transition is the great heterogeneity and complexity in terms of technologies, market structures, diversity of players and cost structures. Different ownership and user structures, heating technologies and system sizes as well as building types and energy efficiency standards shape the heating market. Accelerating the heat transition therefore requires profound scientific analyses and innovative concepts.

Within the framework of the research program “Heat Transition”, the EWI addresses central questions and relies on a systematic and integrative approach as well as state-of-the-art scientific methods.

EWI analyzes:

  • Potentials and challenges for the development of decentralized technologies such as electric heat pumps.
  • Contribution of grid-based heat supply (local and district heating) as well as gas and future hydrogen infrastructure
  • Incentives for efficient climate protection investments (e.g. building renovation or heating system replacement)
  • Regulatory instruments and fundings for accelerated climate protection efforts in the heat sector

The aim of the research program “Heat Transition” is to conduct research at the highest level of economic science that is of general interest. The EWI publishes in the field of basic research as well as in applied research in order to contribute to a better understanding of challenges and options in the context of the heat transition as well as to provide a fundament for political and societal debates.

The challenges of the heat transition are complex.

The research of the EWI in the field of the research program “Heat Transition” is divided into three areas, which are integrated depending on the question and research topic.

Overall system approach

EWI investigates long-term development paths of the building sector and changes in heating and cooling technologies. Special focus is given to interactions with the whole energy system in order to analyze integrated optimization and planning of different energy markets and infrastructures (e.g. heating grids, hydrogen grids).

Behavioral economic impacts

Behavioral economic factors can influence the transformation path of the building sector. EWI investigates the decision heuristics as well as the usage and investment behavior of households and actors in the building sector with respect to heat generation and building renovation projects.

Regulatory and funding mechanisms

Based on the overall system analyses and the behavioral economic aspects, EWI investigates funding instruments and incentive mechanisms and develops effective measures on how to efficiently implement the heat transition.

Content perspectives and approaches

Depending on the research question, different energy economic analyses are performed and different EWI models are used and further developed, such as the EWI’s household model COMODO or the EWI’s European energy system model DIMENSION with associated detailed building module.

The research program “Heat Transition” includes both basic and applied research and is funded by the “Förderinitiative Wärmewende” of the Gesellschaft zur Förderung des Energiewirtschaftlichen Instituts an der Universität zu Köln e. V. with about 160,000 Euros per year. Of this, about 47 percent is used for basic research in the area of the heat transition and 53 percent for specific projects developed jointly with the “Förderinitiative Wärmewende”. The companies involved in the “Förderinitiative Wärmewende” can be viewed on the website of the Gesellschaft zur Förderung des Energiewirtschaftlichen Instituts an der Universität zu Köln e. V.