4th Generation District Heat

District Heating (DH) networks are an important infrastructure element for a future heat supply and have a considerable potential despite the declining building heat demand. They offer the systemic advantage of a spatial and temporal balancing of heat sources and demand in a technically and economically optimized system.

The future 4th generation is to take full advantage of the possibilities of heating. Fourth-generation DH are innovative heat infrastructures based on loss- and temperature-optimized heating networks. This allows both the heat supply by renewable energies such as geothermal energy or solar thermal energy as well as the use of large heat storages.

In Germany, however, "Wärmetz 4.0" has so far only been installed to a small extent. In order to optimally promote these "intelligent" heat networks in the following years, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) has commissioned a study on the implementation and diffusion of DH4.0. ifeu co-ordinated the study which analyses technical requirements, economic efficiency, climate-saving potentials as well as cost reduction potentials for these systems. The study includes an empirical assessment of existing schemes, including barriers and opportunities, and concludes with recommendations for a support scheme and accompanying instruments.


January 2017 – December 2017


Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi)


adelphi consult GmbH

PricewaterhouseCoopers GmbH

Ecofys Germany GmbH

Agentur für Erneuerbare Energien (Renewable Energies Agency)

Deutsche Energieagentur


Final report, in German (pdf 5 MB)

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