Building Resilient Energy Systems
World society presently is facing major challenges in the fight against climate change and limited fossil energy resources. In recent years many urban areas have set the ambition to become ‘energy neutral’ within the next decades. In these plans the existing energy infrastructure has to be transformed from a centralized system based on fossil fuels (natural gas, coal, oil) towards a more resilient, individual system based on the use of renewable energy resources. Moving away from convenient fossil fuels and their established infrastructures, the transition is creating a new reality: limited and often fluctuating renewable sources in a market with insulated buildings and prosumers. The future of energy is full of change and continuous innovation, a situation in which resilience is a substantial and critical success factor. Future infrastructures will move away from linear flows from producers to consumers and will show a high level of integration between energy flows, with a multitude of sources providing heat, cold and electricity and prosumers actively participating as part of the networks.

In the new situation storage of heat and cold, and smart (peer-to-peer) exchange of several kinds of energy carriers like water and electricity will most probably become crucial. Roadmaps for stepwise transition towards such a system, securing energy delivery and guaranteeing payable prices have to be derived from thorough monitoring and evaluation of these processes. Analysis of potential carbon-free urban energy systems give rise to many questions. What are their essential characteristics? What different approaches could be chosen and in which aspects do they differ? What problems are encountered in the realization of the ambitions? Which stakeholders are involved? To which extent does the new system become more resilient than the former fossil-fuel based energy? Which recommendations can be made for (urban) regions that face the unavoidable transition towards innovative more resilient energy systems?

The Open University is involved in several research projects on the future of urban energy systems. These projects focus mainly on sustainable provision of heating and cooling in urban environments. The OU collaborates with a wide range of partners from other research institutes, industry, and civil society.


The Faculty of Science of the Open University (OU) is a partner in D2GRIDS (“Demand Driven Grids”). This Interreg North-West Europe project, coordinated by Mijnwater BV in Heerlen, aims to roll out 5th generation heating and cooling networks (5GDHC) throughout Europe. Five pilot sites in Paris-Saclay (FR), Bochum (DLD), Brunssum (NL), Glasgow and Nottingham (UK) will develop the 5GDHC networks. The total project budget is 20.8 million Euro of which 11.6 million Euro is covered by Interreg funds. The OU participates for €400,000 in the project, of which €240,000 is covered by Interreg. The project duration is 3 years. The research project fits perfectly within the years of cooperation between the OU and Mijnwater BV.

The OU has two main responsibilities in D2Grids. In order to spread knowledge about 5GDHC among industry and policy makers, the OU is involved in developing and providing educational programs on 5GDHC. The other responsibility is to develop a method of investigating the climate impact of 5GDHC and apply this method at the D2Grids pilot sites.

Future urban energy

Future urban energy: the role of social and physical networks is the name of the research project at the Faculty of Science at Open University that is part of the research program Safety in Urban Environments. Future Urban Energy consists for a large part of the PhD research of Stef Boesten. The aim of the project is 1) to generate a tool to compute the optimum size of an integrated renewable neighborhood energy system in terms of both carbon emissions and impact on the existing built environment, and 2) explore successful participatory approaches that facilitate the roll-out and scale-up of fossil-free, collective heating and cooling technologies in existing neighborhoods.

The computer analysis is made using an existing model in collaboration with the Copernicus Institute for Sustainable Development at Utrecht University. Successful participatory approaches are distilled by investigating several case studies, most of which take part in the national program natural gas-free neighborhoods (Programma Aardgasvrije Wijken). The project duration is four year from October 2018.



We offer an online course on Energy Analysis The course provides an introduction in the analysis of energy systems and energy technologies. In the course, attention is spent on both energy supply and energy demand systems. The course offers methods and tools to analyze energy systems. Topics in the course are, among others: thermodynamics (basics), energy services and demand, energy extraction and conversion, energy markets, energy in a social context, energy management, energy chains, life cycle energy analysis, measuring energy efficiency and intensity, energy technologies, energy scenarios and policies for efficient energy use and renewable energy.

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For further information on research and education on (renewable) energy contact Dr. Wilfried Ivens