Distribution grids

How good energy distribution saves time, money and CO2.

The energy transition can only succeed by expanding renewable energy sources and their use in all sectors. The volatility of power from the wind and sun already poses challenges for distribution grids today. Thanks to new technologies and infrastructure, grid stability and supply security can be guaranteed even with an increasing share of green electricity. In the heating sector, there are many alternatives to the fossil fuels still predominantly in use. They just have to be used.

Conventional energy generation plants such as coal-fired and nuclear power plants can continuously feed energy into the power grids and can be controlled independent of supply. Wind energy and photovoltaic panels on the other hand feed energy into the distribution grids in a predominantly decentralised and weather-dependent manner. This means that electricity feed is less predictable. The grid of the future must therefore increasingly deal with fluctuations in power generation and consumption. To accomplish this, the grid must be digital and innovative.  


The use of natural gas for heat supply must be reconsidered in many places. Natural gas pipelines can be converted into hydrogen pipelines. In the heating sector however, heat networks are likely to play a more important role outside of the industrial sector.


The following aspects are particularly important for the grid of the future:

Digitalisation of the power grid

Load peaks and volatility of renewable energy sources are challenges for the energy transition

Electric cars and heat pumps, among other things, are increasing the demand for electrical energy. In addition to a higher power load in the distribution grids, this also leads to new load profiles. These loads, along with volatile producers, pose a new challenge for stable grid operation. 


A digitised grid paves the way for grid stability of the future

Most distribution grids have no information about when and where power is being fed into and out of the distribution grid. The solution is an intelligent power grid. The so-called smart grid will centrally monitor and control the distribution grid. It transports not only power, but also large amounts of data. This makes it possible to control decentralised generators and consumers and, in extreme cases, even turn them off or on. This digitalisation of the power grids ensures greater grid stability. Additionally, the necessary grid expansion can be limited to an optimal economic level. 


NRW Distribution Grid Study shows savings potential

How much does it cost to connect the power, heating, industrial and transport sectors? And how much money can be saved by digitising and controlling distribution grids? Scientists investigated these questions in the NRW Distribution Grid Study. They found out that intelligently controlling the “new” consumers leads to considerable savings in grid expansion without any loss of convenience or quality. The study shows that most low-voltage grids need to be expanded. The reason for this is sector coupling. At the same time, however, the greatest savings potential also exists in the low-voltage range. This is because the charging processes of electric cars can be more precisely controlled. 

Unused heat as an energy source

Waste heat as an alternative to natural gas

Natural gas is currently the main energy source for space heating and hot water – both for private homes and for trade, commerce, services and industrial processes. However, the use of fossil natural gas releases gases that are harmful to the climate. Aside from converting renewable energy into gas, a good alternative is to use waste heat. This includes heat that is generated in industrial processes, for example by running machines, but remains unused. A heat network is established when suitable heat sources are available. Waste heat can be used in the industrial sector as well as in local and district heating networks. It can also be converted into electricity using organic Rankine cycle technology. 


Save 13 million tonnes of CO2 per year with waste heat

One third of the energy used to generate process heat currently remains unused as waste heat. This means that there is great potential for climate protection. A current potential analysis by the North Rhine-Westphalia State Agency for Nature, Environment and Consumer Protection assumes that there are 88 to 96 terawatt hours of available waste heat in North Rhine-Westphalia annually. About half of this is estimated to be technically usable. If the existing obstacles could be removed and this heat were used, up to 13 million tonnes of CO2 could be prevented per year. 

Hydrogen network expansion

Existing natural gas networks can be used to distribute hydrogen. This is cheaper and much faster than building a completely new network. You can find extensive information on the subject of hydrogen on our website. 

Your contact

Portrait des Projektmanagers für Energiewirtschaft Matthias Schneider vor einer Glasfront.

Matthias Schneider

Project Manager Energy Sector

Phone: +49 211 8220 864-42

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Portrait der Projektmanagerin für Energiewirtschaft Lisa Schmitt vor einer stylischen Glasfront.

Lisa Schmitt

Project Manager Energy Sector

Phone: +49 211 8220 864-56

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Jan-Bernd Kruse

Project Manager Energy Sector

Phone: +49 211 8220 864-60

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