LowExTra: Policy analysis of the regulatory framework of innovative low-temperature district heating


With 56 percent, the heating sector makes up over half of Germany's energy use. This includes space heating, warm water and process heating. Natural gas and crude oil are currently the chief means of heat generation in Germany. The federal government’s goal is to increase the proportion of renewable energy in final energy consumption for heating and cooling from 9 per cent to 14 per cent by 2020. The long-term goal is to increase this share by considerably more than 14 per cent. Therefore, next to the restructuring of the electricity sector, reorganising the heating sector towards greater energy efficiency and more renewable energy will be crucial for the success of Germany’s energy transition.

The research project LowExTra is studying and developing a new generation intelligent multiwire heating grid. Its goal is to expand the current district heating system with its traditional flow and return lines in such a way that allows decentralised producers of heat to feed heat into the system for storage. So-called LowExTra networks are operated with differing temperature levels so that heat from renewable energies can be captured. A producer of heat for a building or a household is thus simultaneously also a consumer (prosumer). The supply network developed in the research project is therefore completely flexible with respect to the harvesting and delivery of heat, and serves as a heat reservoir as well. In integrating the widest range of energy sources, as well as waste heat, the heating grid thereby increases its energy efficiency. The overarching goal of the project is to research the feasibility of this sort of multiwire heating grid from a technical, economic, political and participatory perspective.

adelphi focuses on all aspects of a comprehensive policy analysis. In order to this goal, a review of the current political and legal frameworks and funding options is being conducted. In a second step, adelphi will develop a structured presentation of the current landscape, including actors, regulations and sources of funding. Following from this, recommendations for action will be developed as a third step.

This three-year research project is sponsored by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi), as part of the sixth energy research program of the funding initiative "EnEff: Wärme – Research for energy-efficient heating and cooling networks". The project partners include the Hermann Rietschel Institute at TU Berlin (technical module), the Institute for Ecological Economy Research (economic module), and the nexus Institute for Cooperation Management and Interdisciplinary Research (participatory module).

Publications of this project