5th Generation District Heating and Cooling

Scientific literature

5GDHC networks are increasingly investigated in scientific research.
Find a list of recent scientific publications here.

5GDHC Scientific Publication

Realized projects

More than 50 projects with 5GDHC networks have been realized in Europe.
Have a look on the interactive map!

5GDHC projects in Europe

What are 5th Generation District Heating and Cooling networks?

5th Generation District Heating and Cooling (5GDHC) networks are the latest development stage of district heating networks. They are also called

The combination of 5GDHC network, renewable energies (e.g. PV power) and different energy demands (heating, cooling, e-mobility) in a sector-coupling energy system is also known as 5th generation energy system. In addition, 5GDHC networks are promoted by energy companies under various labels. The energy supply company E.ON calls its concept for 5th generation district heating and cooling networks ectogrid. The term Balanced Energy Network is also used. Just as there is no uniform term for 5GDHC networks, there is also no generally accepted definition. One possible definition of 5GDHC networks is presented by Buffa et al.:

A 5GDHC network is a thermal energy supply grid that uses water or brine as a carrier medium and hybrid substations with Water Source Heat Pumps (WSHP). It operates at temperatures so close to the ground that it is not suitable for direct heating purpose. The low temperature of the carrier medium gives the opportunity to exploit directly industrial and urban excess heat and the use of renewable heat sources at low thermal exergy content. The possibility to reverse the operation of the customer substations permits to cover simultaneously and with the same pipelines both the heating and cooling demands of different buildings. Through hybrid substations, 5GDHC technology enhances sector coupling of thermal, electrical and gas grids in a decentralised smart energy system.

Advantages of 5GDHC networks

  • Heat and cold supply with only one thermal network.
  • Direct integration of low-temperature waste heat (e.g. waste heat from waste water or compression chillers).
  • Very low heat losses to the surrounding soil due to network temperatures close to the ground temperature.
  • Strong sector coupling between heat and electricity sector by using decentralized heat pumps in buildings.
  • Integration of ambient heat, like ambient air, river or sea water.
  • Balancing of heating and cooling demands within buildings and between buildings through the 5GDHC network.
  • Low network investment due to the usage of (uninsulated) plastic pipes.
  • Heat capacity of the ground can increase flexibility potential (ground acts as heat storage).
  • Exergetic upgrade close to consumer, i.e. the temperature of the heat is raised in the building to the level that is needed by the heating system of the individual building. In other words, the network temperature does not need to be so high that all buildings are supplied with the highest flow temperature in the heating system (existing building with old heating system and flow temperatures above 70 °C). Instead, the heat is raised individually for each building by the decentralized heat pumps to the temperature level required in the respective building.

Disadvantages of 5GDHC networks

  • Complexsystem control.
  • Large flow rate in the pies are needed due to smaller temperature differences between the warm and cold pipe. However, since plastic pipes are substantially cheaper than steel pipes, larger pipe diameters can be chosen which keeps the pump work increase small (pump work decreases with the 5th power of the pipe diameter).
  • Cost-intensive substations with integrated heat pumps.
  • Relatively new concept, lacking proven planning methods, control concepts and operational experience.

Latest news about 5GDHC networks