A sustainable future energy system requires thermal networks. In contrast to the centrally controlled heating networks of the past, these networks must now be optimally integrated into the energy system. This means that the aim should be maximum flexibility. These thermal networks should therefore also be combined with storage and conversion technology and intelligent control systems. The fourth generation thermal networks form a critical component of the infrastructure that will be needed to enable the large-scale integration of renewable energy sources.

Thermal energy conversion involves the conversion of residual heat and heat from sustainable sources – such as solar energy, biomass or geothermal heat – to other energy carriers, such as electricity, heat at a different temperature level or cold.

Heating networks can act as the link between the demand for and supply of heat. Moreover, they can provide the infrastructure for various forms of sustainable heat.

Thermal storage is a key element in most energy systems and is crucial for achieving a sustainable future with low CO2 emissions. Thermal energy storage means surplus heat or cold is stored, ready for use when a future need arises.