Projects in Demand Side Management

BFE H2 districts
Hydrogen fuel cells can play a role in local district energy systems. If they are operated with sustainably produced hydrogen, they can provide decentralized, renewable electrical and thermal energy.
In this project, a pilot plant will be installed in NEST+move at Empa to test the use and applicability of this technology for grid-supporting purposes. Specifically, the kvyreen prototype of the SFOE project e-HRS will be adapted and operated as an integrated pilot plant. Grid-relieving operating strategies are being developed and validated on the system. Furthermore, the extent to which heat pumps as well as thermal and electrical storage technologies can be used in combination with the pilot plant to support the grid will be investigated. Attention will also be paid to on the behavior of the fuel cell system over its lifetime. Building technology, hydrogen and distribution grid aspects are brought together and considered integrally.

Funding body: BFE, Industry
Partner: Hälg AG, H2Energy AG, Osterwalder AG, SWEET PATHFNDR
Contact: Philipp Heer


BFE nanoverbund
Heating systems in buildings are designed to provide sufficient heating for the coldest expected days of the year. So, for most parts they are underutilized. Retrofitting thermal connections between close-by buildings leads to a locally more efficient use of energy as the most efficient heating system(s) can supply heat to all buildings. These connected buildings with adapted control (dubbed a “nanoverbund”) can also provide more flexibility potential to upper layer distribution grid operators or energy providers. Especially in the presence of heterogeneous building energy systems, energy storage and conversion technology can be utilized for the benefit of all parties/stakeholders. A pilot site installation of three buildings in the City of Basel shall be operated by a flexibility aware control scheme in order to demonstrate the potential of the nanoverbund concept. Additionally to that, a stakeholder ecosystem study is conducted to understand the key aspect of each involved party.
In this project our Lab will take over the project lead and develop flexibility aware nanoverbund control solutions as well as simulation studies on different technology settings where a nanoverbund could be planned/operated.
Funding body: BFE, Industry
Contact: Hanmin Cai


EU Heatwise
The HEATWISE project aims to tackle various thermal management challenges in tertiary buildings with a significant IT load. The project has specific objectives to develop and validate (to TRL 4 and 5) its technological innovation in two interrelated aspects: for IT system equipment in facility rooms and for a complete building management level. The innovation toward achieving energy efficiency and thermal management optimization follows up on a detailed thermal need analysis framework and theoretical validation, and is fulfilled through four novel solutions: i) Hybrid future-proof cooling hardware solution for high-density data processing based on two-phase dielectric liquid cooling and air immersion ii) Digital twin-supported holistic high-density data processing management system with a smart workload orchestration system, iii) Integrated multi-objective building energy management system covering both IT equipment needs and human presence, and iv) Self-assessment tool for energy management needs in tertiary buildings with power-intensive IT systems. On top of that, the project will develop a knowledge-sharing platform to showcase potential improvement pathways in energy optimization of tertiary buildings and maximize the project's impact.
Our Lab's involvement in the Project: Lead WP7 "Developing integrated, multi-objective energy management systems" WP7 Objectives: The main goal of WP7 is to design a novel, integrated, multi-objective energy management system for waste heat utilisation of power intensive IT systems and their host buildings. The multi-objective includes optimization of costs, emissions, comfort, etc. The objectives of WP7 are as follows: (i) to define key performance objectives and indicators for efficient energy management system (ii) to analyse and design the energy management system considering server rooms and multi-vector interactions, (iii) to develop and validate optimal control strategies considering heat gain from various sources (appliances, humans, data centres) (iv) to provide guidelines and recommendation for the design, implementation and control of novel multi-objective energy management systems with server rooms and micro data centres.
Funding body: SBFI, EU
Contact: Philipp Heer


EU Reformers
Renewable energy valleys are understood as decentralised renewable energy systems that offer a viable and efficient solution to energy transition challenges. By implementing a high degree of renewable energy sources as well as storage technologies and intelligent management algorithms for synergetic use of a wide variety of technologies, they can be 100% self-sufficient on a yearly basis. For the next 5 years, the REFORMERS project aims to develop, implement an exploit such an energy valley in the Boekelermeer next to the city of Alkmaar in the Netherlands, that serves as a living lab for testing and validating technologies, business models, stakeholder ecosystems, including industrial partners, DSO, the municipality, and residents, and user acceptance in real-life circumstances, in a peri-urban and industrial environment. Furthermore, the project aims to support the deployment of multiple self-sufficient energy valleys throughout Europe beyond the flagship in the Netherlands. Therefore, it will deliver a roll-out blue print and replication toolbox that encompass: (i) Energy System Design, (ii) Environmental Impact Assessment, (iii), Stakeholder Engagement and Social impact assessment, (iv) Governance and policy assessment, and (v) Business modelling, and allow other sites and regions to develop a pathway towards a carbon neutral and self-sufficient energy valley, that can be fed into e.g., a Sustainable Energy and Climate Action Plan.
In this project our Lab has a Task lead "T5.2 Energy data space: past, present, future" : The objective of this task is to develop an ontology and definitions for an energy data space for energy valleys with the purpose to store historic data, manage operational data in close to real-time, and keep track of various demand and renewable energy and price forecasts, in a cyber-safe environment. In addition, the data space keeps the results of analytical model-based studies, in this way enabling, among other things, exploratory scenario analysis. The results of the Digicities ERA-NET project will be extended upon. Additionally: we contribute to other Tasks in WP5 "Digital twin for energy valleys" lead by TUDelft
Funding body: SBFI, EU
Partner: VUB, NEW ENERGY COALITION, AIT, Duurzaam Heiloo, CERTH, CIRCE, MIASTO-KONIN, DDS, EUREC, NAPE, RISE, TNO, DEEP BLUE, ANDORRA MUN, TU Delft, MoK, Holzwelt Murau, ALLIANDER, Gem. Alkmaar, NV HVC, HYnoca Alkmaar, InVesta, Sustenso, REPOWERED, methetnet, NXT Mobility, STOFF2 GmbH
Contact: Philipp Heer


Dynamic tariffs can provide an incentive to shift flexible loads from periods with high prices to periods with lower prices. In contrast to direct load control by a single network operator, control via dynamic prices can simultaneously take into account congestion in different network levels and markets by overlaying the corresponding price signals.
Within the project, a dynamic 15-min network tariff will be introduced at Groupe E as an optional tariff and different approaches for dynamic tariffs will be tested. The tariff signals will be published on the Internet and home-energy-management-systems (HEMS), which optimize flexibility at end-users (e.g. batteries, electric cars, heat pumps) could retrieve the tariffs and use the flexibility in a way that benefits the grid. In addition to grid tariffs, HEMS can also consider revenues from other markets (e.g., spot market, system service markets) to efficiently balance between different uses of flexibility.
Funding body: BFE, Industry
Partner: Groupe e, Siemens, ZHAW, SWEET PATHFNDR
Contact: Federica Bellizio



The energy efficiency of buildings is strongly dependent on the quality of its automation systems and its continuous adaption. Great potential lies in the optimization of heating systems, more specifically optimally parametrized heating curves. In this project, we are adapting and validating a well-known, data-driven, fully automatic and sample-efficient method for optimizing the heating curve in terms of room comfort, energy demand of a building and facility management effort. Next to NEST, two residential buildings operated by Lippuner AG will serve as pilot and validation cases to showcase the applicability of the approach in real life.
Funding body: BFE, Industry
Partner: Lippuner AG
Contact: Michael Locher


Geothermal-based Optimized Energy Systems (GOES)
The current design of energy systems lacks standardization and transferability. Similar challenges were successfully addressed in other industries via a platform-based design (PBD) approach. Applying the PBD approach to energy systems has a significant impact potential. It will enable rapid and transferable innovations and implementations at different scales for energy system transformations from the subsurface to the city scale. The holistic approach will lead to the cost-optimal integration of geothermal energy in existing and new urban areas. And most importantly, it leads to a significant CO2 emission reduction of heating and cooling supply. The PBD defines the interfaces between the scales and standardizes the information exchange between different levels of abstraction and thus enables the effective implementation of Geothermal-based Optimized Energy Systems (GOES). The PBD framework will be developed, validated, and applied by the highly interdisciplinary and transnational consortium using four pilot -and five case study sites
Funding body: BFE (ERA-Net)
Contact: Robin Mutschler
Involved groups: MES


SWEET: Improve renewable energy system efficiency through flexibility and sector coupling (PATHFNDR) 
In the PATHFNDR project, we will investigate how to incorporate a much higher share of renewable energy sources into the energy system while striving to achieve a more efficient Swiss energy system with the goal to reach a net-zero greenhouse gas emission-society by 2050, as set out by the Federal Council. To fulfill this goal, feasible pathways will be studied in particular through enabling flexibility providers across various sectors, along different temporal and spatial scales ranging from the European perspective over the country level to municipalities and individual companies, buildings and technologies.
In order to exploit the energetic flexibility potential under the national and international scenarios, single technologies cannot be analyzed individually. Rather, multiple technologies need to be put into the context of existing or novel use cases such that they can be evaluated following a holistic approach. Based on the systemic interaction of individual technologies, a real and usable flexibility potential can be quantified and exploited based on measurement data of bottom-up technologies installed in demonstrators like NEST, move and ehub, as well as participating districts and cities in Switzerland.
Funding body: BFE, Industry
Partners: ETH, PSI, HSLU, UniGE, Industry
Philipp Heer


EU EcoQube
ECO-Qube’s smart cooling system, will effectively use Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) simulations to adapt cooling system and IT devices for the best airflow and cooling performance in small data centres with minimum energy consumption.
The ECO-Qube project will introduce innovative cooling of edge data centers by zonal heat management. The system will exploit the big data formed by the monitoring of the CPU utilization, temperature and power consumption of the IT devices to operate the zonal heat management system, which predicts zonal temperature rises in advance. In this framework, ECO-Qube instantaneously reads the cooling requirements of the data centre, making the data available for the artificial intelligence supported cooling system and control over the cooling & energy management systems and IT devices in order to obtain an energy efficient operation of the whole integrated facility. To obtain this efficient and dynamic management of the facility, ECO-Qube will develop a customized smart energy management system that interfaces with the building’s energy management system (BEMS). Furthermore, ECO-Qube will demonstrate strategies to achieve a high share of the ICT energy consumption covered by sustainable energy sources: data centers can be greener with successful RES integration.
The development and testing of ECO-Qube smart cooling system will be accompanied with the integration of renewable energy and waste heat valorization solutions in 3 pilot sites including the Empa NEST demonstrator.
Funding body: EU
Contact: Philipp Heer


NCCR Automation
The latest advances in sensor technology, data generation and computing have the potential to profoundly change areas of our economic and daily lives. The complete automation and control of entire systems such as cities (smart cities), power grids (smart grids) or industrial processes (Industry 4.0) is increasingly becoming a reality in the course of digital transformation.
The aim of the Dependable Ubiquitous Automation National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) is to advance the methodological and technological bases for the large-scale implementation of such complex systems. By improving decision-making and control procedures and developing new algorithms and computer methods, the reliability and flexibility of intelligent systems can be improved. The new findings will be applied in the fields of energy management, mobility and advanced manufacturing. One of the NCCR’s key projects is to develop and implement a fully automated and decentralized energy management system at district or commune level. This will allow the economic potential and social impact of automated applications to be tested in real life.
Funding body: SNF
Partners: ETH Zurich, EPF Lausanne, FHNW
Contact: Philipp Heer
Involved groups: MES, ehub


The aim of the LANTERN project is to co-design, test, validate, and scale up a portfolio of interventions for a user-empowered, decarbonized, resource efficient and sufficient Switzerland. We will achieve it through applied research and development at the interface between markets, technology, policies, and society.
The project will assess the relevance of socio-technical aspects, e.g. social practices, use of technologies, norms and context of use with respect to the sustainable energy transition in Swiss households, leisure activities and workplaces. In real-life Living Labs, corresponding new services, programs and policies will be co-designed, tested and validated at different scales (e.g. in homes, institutions, districts, or city level).
Funding body: BFE, Industry
Partners: HES-SO, ZHAW, UniGE, HSLU, CSEM, UniBE, SUPSI, HEIPA, Industry
Contact: Hanmin Cai


Klimafonds Winterthur
In diesem Projekt wird eine selbstlernende, adaptive und prädiktive Regelung aus dem Forschungs- und Entwicklungsstadium in eine reale Umgebung implementiert. Dieser Regler soll die Wärmeerzeugung in der Wohn- und Gewerbeüberbauung «Hobelwerk» steuern. In zwei Häusern (A und B) wird das Warmwasser, sowie die Heizwärme jeweils mittels Luft/Wasser-Wärmepumpen bereitgestellt. In drei Häusern (C, D und E) kommt hingegen ein bivalentes System mit Wärmepumpe und Pellet-Kessel zum Einsatz. Luft/Wasser-Wärmepumpen sind eine verbreitete Lösung für die CO2 arme Wärmeerstellung. Sie weisen aber zwei Problematiken auf. Erstens werden Luft-Wasser- Wärmepumpen aus Lärm- und Platzgründen im Urbanen Raum für grössere Bauten nur selten eingesetzt. Zweitens belasten diese Systeme das Stromnetz in den Wintermonaten erheblich, also dann, wenn der Netzstrom eher CO2 intensiv ist. Um diese Nachteile zu entschärfen, kann die Spitzenlast durch einen anderen Wärmeerzeuger abgedeckt werden, wie in diesem Fall einen Pellet-Ofen. Das Zusammenspiel dieser beiden Systeme auf Netzbelastung, CO2- Emissionen und lokale PV-Produktion zu optimieren ist aber eine komplexe Aufgabe. Deshalb wird dafür ein selbstlernender, adaptiver und prädiktiver Regler entwickelt. Dieses System wird dann der reinen Wärmepumpen-Lösung mit einem ähnlichen Regler gegenübergestellt. Durch die selbstlernende Eigenschaft, lässt sich der Reglern einfach auf eine neue Heizung anpassen. Damit ist die Skalierbarkeit gegeben.
Funding body: Stadtwerke Winterthur
Partners: mehr als wohnen
Contact: Hanmin Cai


BFE Hobelwerk: Skalierbare Lösungen für den Weg zu Netto Null
Um die Pariser Klimaziele zu erreichen, muss der Gebäudepark der Schweiz CO2-neutral werden. In diesem Projekt werden dafür vier vielversprechende und skalierbare Ansätze in einer realen Umgebung installiert, erprobt und miteinander verglichen. Die Ansätze sind zwar nicht CO2-frei, aber sie haben das Potential dazu. Für die Erstellung werden die Ansätze CO2-armer Holzbau sowie ReUse erprobt. Für den Betrieb wird eine prädiktive, optimierte Bivalenz-Regelung in der Wärmeerzeugung, sowie eine einfache Abluftanlage, welche aber dank einer CO2-Steuerung einen hohen Komfort ermöglicht, installiert. Diese vier Losungen werden mittels einer einheitlichen Methode bezüglich der Lebenszykluskosten sowie der Ökobilanzierung miteinander verglichen. Zudem werden Erhebungen zur Akzeptanz während der Planung sowie unter den Bewohnenden durchgeführt.
Funding body: BFE
Partners: mehr als wohnen, Lemon Consult AG, Lignum, Baubüro in situ
Contact: Hanmin Cai


K3 - Handwerkcity
The overall objective of this project is to show a system-related contribution of the Swiss gas industry to the implementation of the Swiss Energy Strategy 2050. Empa will provide a quantification of energetic flexibilities and the free capacities. Additionally, we are conducting an optimization for future adaptions of operation. We evaluate the system stability based on measurement data, and we will evaluate economical factors related to electrical self-sufficiency in the K3 building complex.
K3, a commercially used building complex, will serve as validation area. Its energy system consists of roof and façade PV systems, air-to-water heat pumps, water-to-water heat pumps, a CHP unit and several hot- and cold-water storage units.
Funding body: FOGA
Partners: Die Werke Wallisellen, SVGW
Contact: Philipp Heer
Involved group: ehub