Now it is all about the climateThe European Green Deal is the European Commission’s key project for a climate-neutral and resource-efficient economy.
Way out of the climate crisis with clearly defined targets
- Greenhouse gas neutrality by 2050
- Climate neutrality in Austria by 2040
- Only electricity from renewable energies after 2030
The goals are ambitious, but achievable: What it takes is intelligence and networking, courage and know-how.
Forecasts predict that by 2050, around 70 percent of the world's population will live in urban centers. The need for global investments in smart city infrastructure projects will continue to rise, and urban populations will continue to grow. Experts expect Vienna alone to have two million residents by 2030.
Optimized solutions are possible thanks to:
- predictive building automation
- an improved distribution grid
- the use of energy flexibilities on the energy market
- the use of acquired data for the maximum comfort of residents
Tomorrow is nowThe key to this future lies in the development of our cities. For this reason, we are already working today on the city of tomorrow. In parts of aspern Seestadt, complex interrelationships in modern cities are being investigated in a research project that is unique in Europe, new approaches to solutions are being tested under real conditions, and sustainable technologies for our energy future are being developed.
Rethinking energyNew approaches are needed to develop a climate-neutral, sustainable economy and society. Siemens is researching innovative solutions. The 5Ds define the transition to the climate-neutral energy world of tomorrow: decarbonization, decentralization, diversification, democratization and digitalization.
These 5Ds are connected by one element: end-to-end digitalization based on state-of-the-art technologies.
Aspern Smart City ResearchUnique research in building technology and energy distribution
Deployment of new technologies in a real city district
Since October 2013, Siemens Austria has been operating one of the most innovative and sustainable energy efficiency demonstration projects in the areas of building technology and energy distribution as part of Aspern Smart City Research (ASCR). Other partners on the project are Wien Energie, Wiener Netze, Vienna Business Agency, and Wien 3420.
ASCR’s research is not just about individual elements, but about the complex interrelationships within a smart city district. In aspern Seestadt, researchers can test their solutions on real buildings and grids and with the participation of real operators and users. The experience and data they gain will be used to develop energy systems for a sustainable future in Vienna and beyond.
The model is unique in this form. More than 100 individuals from various scientific fields are directly involved in the research.
ASCR 2023: Putting theory into practice
The first phase of the Aspern project focused on building the necessary research infrastructure, which serves as a basis for data collection and practical testing of solution concepts.
In the second phase, the research activities range from the smart integration of buildings into utility grids and energy markets to new approaches of providing thermal energy for distributed heating and cooling to energy-efficient charging of electric vehicles.
The prototype systems for buildings and the grid that were developed and optimized earlier are now being converted to cost-effective and practical solutions for residents, grid and building operators, as well as energy providers. The goal is for buildings to communicate with their occupants, the smart grid, weather services and, where appropriate, the market in the form of energy service providers and trading platforms.
As part of ASCR, Siemens is investing approximately 37 million euros in research into the energy future of cities.
The impact of the 5Ds on research prioritiesASCR activities aim to transform long-standing research into practical innovation based on a series of research questions regarding smart grids and how to optimize the use of energy in smart buildings. Digitalization plays a crucial role for the buildings and grids of tomorrow. Trends such as the Industrial Internet of Things, digital twins, machine learning and artificial intelligence form the basis for new solutions. From the very beginning, we take into account necessary measures to protect against cybercrime and use open-source software as much as possible.
Where will the energy for hot water, heating or cooling come from if fossil fuels are no longer used? How can photovoltaic systems, solar thermal systems and heat pumps be integrated effectively into an energy management system for buildings? How can smart buildings act as active energy market participants in an automated way and for the benefit of their occupants?
Smart power grids
How should the low-voltage grid of tomorrow be set up and how can existing grids be upgraded? What are the resulting requirements for higher grid levels? How can a smart grid be operated and managed efficiently? What tools are needed for roll-out, operation and maintenance? How can new solutions be integrated into the existing technical infrastructure and process landscape of a distribution grid operator?
Better energy management in buildings to prevent potential overload of the energy grid
The use of heat pumps, photovoltaic and HVAC systems in and around buildings as well as electromobility increase the demand for electrical energy. The growing number of new electrical loads can cause grid congestion. To prevent this, it is important to optimize the self-consumption of buildings.
To this end, the ASCR research team is working on solutions focused on the following:
- Integrating photovoltaic systems, solar thermal systems, heat pumps, etc. into an energy management system
- Providing energy from renewable energy sources for domestic hot water, heating, cooling, and temperature control
- Turning buildings and building networks (campus districts) into participants in the energy market
- Automating building operation
How can such requirements be implemented technically?
What requirements must buildings as well as the power grid meet? What kind of legal framework is needed? How can these solutions be combined with the business and rate models of energy suppliers?
One solution is a Building Energy Management System (BEMS).
It is designed to optimize the energy consumption of buildings and establish seamless energy management between buildings and energy grids. This allows smart buildings to communicate in different “languages” – not only with their own systems, such as heat pumps or energy storage systems in the basement, PV systems on the roof or charging infrastructure, but also with other buildings, grids and electricity markets.
A BEMS is able to compensate for the “predictable unpredictability” of a building’s energy consumption and ensure energy-neutral operation. This is achieved by incorporating a wide variety of forecasting models, such as weather forecasts (crucial for the operation of PV systems), into the system. At peak times, electricity is made available automatically. Applied broadly, this is a highly effective way to stabilize the grid and reduce the carbon footprint of buildings.
Looking into the future: Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and digital twin
One solution to the challenge mentioned above is to upgrade existing systems with new functionalities. Parts of aspern Seestadt were used as a test environment for IIoT-based advanced automation systems, enabling the implementation of cross-domain IoT architectures for distributed energy systems. The SICAM A8000 product family is the result of application-oriented research.
Digital image of a building
Early detection of problems gives building operators time to take countermeasures. A digital twin (a real-time representation of buildings or even grids and entire city districts) helps building operators, developers and investors choose the right energy concepts for their projects. The span of a digital twin extends from the design, construction, commissioning, smooth operation, and predictive maintenance of a building to its demolition, thanks to the availability of product, design, execution, and change data as well as historical and real-time measurement data.
The resulting transparency makes it possible to optimize processes, reduce errors, and save costs and energy.
New opportunities for the existing grid infrastructure
Today, energy is fed into the grid at connection points that were not technically designed for this purpose when the grid was planned. Another factor is electromobility, which requires charging power that is far higher than the electricity needs of a typical household, or advanced storage options. This presents numerous challenges for the distribution grid. Appropriate options must be created in order to continue to ensure an efficient power supply using the existing grid infrastructure.
Smart grid: making grids intelligent
The only way to accommodate the grid transformation that is already taking place is by combining cost-efficient grid expansion and timely bidirectional communication in the best way possible. The goal is to create opportunities to manage the ever-increasing peak power demand, to reduce the power consumption of loads without significantly restricting energy trading, and to support energy communities.
To this end, the ASCR research team is working on solutions focused on the following:
- Scalable and requirement-based upgrade of low-voltage grids
- Design of future low-voltage grids
- Requirement-based solution concepts for higher grid levels
- Automation of operating processes
- Integration of third-party products
- Integration of new solutions into the existing infrastructure
Maximum benefit for market participants
If possible, renewable energy should be consumed when it can be generated. One means to support this goal is flexible energy pricing, i.e., whenever a high volume of renewable energy is offered on the market, energy prices go down. In the future, this option will also be available to household customers, provided smart meters are available.
The second step is to make more efficient use of locally generated energy. Austria has already created the legal framework to enable the establishment of energy communities where prosumers and consumers deal with each other locally so that locally generated energy is also used locally. This helps avoid transformation and transmission losses that occur when power is fed into higher grid levels.
All of these scenarios form an essential backdrop for the research performed in Aspern. The goal is to find out which optimization measures in the previously described system have the most benefit for individual market participants, how to implement them technically, and how to design solutions that are easy for users to employ.
Connectivity and intelligenceState-of-the-art monitoring and analytics tools, as well as smart sensor technology and digital management systems, equip the grid and buildings for the new tasks.
In order for grids to communicate with buildings – and for multiple buildings to communicate with each other – they will be connected via interfaces, allowing them to exchange data, flexibility potential, requirements, etc. This results in considerable synergy effects. Examples include methods for deploying digital twins, forecasting energy and load flows, and creating a suitable data analytics environment for process improvement and gaining new insights.
The models are continuously refined using adaptive, self-learning algorithms. The building- and grid-specific control mechanisms evolve independently to find optimal results. This allows the operation of buildings to be optimized in terms of CO2 savings and costs, and necessary maintenance to be carried out in a timely manner or as required.
By making efficient use of the existing building and grid infrastructure, entire city districts can help achieve the climate goals and make the energy transition a reality.
Benefits for our customers and partnersSiemens believes that being part of the research will lead to concrete and practical results that can be made scalable and replicable for other countries or regions. Numerous insights gained by Siemens have already been incorporated into real products, benefiting users and the environment. These solutions will enable cities and regions beyond Austria to contribute towards the energy transition.
We learn from every single research project and continue to grow. For carbon neutrality and clean energy – in other words, for us and for our environment.Wolfgang Hesoun | Chairman of the Managing Board of Siemens AG Austria