Building Resilient Energy Systems
In recent years many urban areas across the world have set the ambition to become climate neutral within the next decades. To achieve this target, the existing energy infrastructure has to be transformed from an inefficient system based on fossil fuels (natural gas, coal, oil) towards a more resilient 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. New, local energy sources can have unexpected environmental impacts, both positive and negative. Future infrastructures will move away from extractive, 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 different types of energy carriers like water and electricity will become crucial. Roadmaps for a stepwise transition towards such a system, securing energy delivery and guaranteeing affordable prices have to be derived from thorough monitoring and evaluation of these processes. Analysis of potential carbon-free urban energy systems gives 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 system? Which recommendations can be made for urban regions that face the unavoidable transition towards innovative, more resilient energy systems?

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


The Faculty of Science of the Open Universiteit (OU) is a partner in D2GRIDS. This Interreg North-West Europe project, coordinated by Mijnwater in Heerlen, aims to increase the share of renewable energy in Europe by rolling out 5th generation heating and cooling networks (5GDHC). Pilot systems are developed at five sites in Paris-Saclay (FR), Bochum (DE), Brunssum (NL), Glasgow (UK), and Nottingham (UK). Knowledge partners in the consortium codify the lessons learnt at these pilot sites to accelerate the industrialization and rollout of 5GDHC technology. 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 4 years.
The OU is responsible for ascertaining the long term impact of D2Grids. To spread knowledge about 5GDHC among industry and policymakers, the OU is involved in developing and providing educational programs on 5GDHC. Another responsibility is to develop a method of investigating the climate impact of 5GDHC and apply this method at the D2Grids pilot sites. The OU also coordinates the formation of feasibility studies, action plans, and rollout strategies of 5GDHC in North-West Europe.

Future urban energy

Future urban energy: the role of social and physical networks is the name of a research project at the Department of Environmental Sciences at Open Universiteit that is part of the OU research program Safety in Urban Environments. Future Urban Energy consists mainly of the PhD research of Stef Boesten. The project aims to provide insights into the optimal approach to implementing 5GDHC systems in existing neighbourhoods. The hypothesis is that an optimal approach requires both an optimal technical design and an optimal implementation approach by the municipality or similar project leader. These two sides can conflict, and a balance will need to be found between the technological optimum and the acceptability of some technical elements by residents. The project duration is four years from October 2018. The first paper in this project was published in Advanced Geosciences in September 2019.



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