Heat pumps in district heating and cooling systems

Today in the Lab – Tomorrow in Energy? shines a spotlight on research projects under development in the Technology Collaboration Programmes (TCPs). Learn more about the initiative, read the launch commentary, or explore the TCPs.

Opportunities and challenges of implementing heat pumps in district heating and cooling systems

What is the aim of this project?

District heating is expected to play a key role in the energy grid and supply, particularly when heat pumps are connected to the system. This project aims to gather information and ideas for policy makers, decision makers and planners of energy systems about the opportunities and challenges of implementing heat pumps in district heating and cooling systems.

How could this technology be explained to a high school student?

District heating is a system for distributing heat to buildings through a system of insulated pipes. Heat pumps can utilise waste heat sources of low temperatures (below 45°C) in the district heating grid, minimising heat losses. By running when the production of renewable power is high, they can also facilitate the integration of renewable power in electricity networks. District heating could cover up to 50% of the heating demand in Europe, and heat pumps could deliver around 25% of the energy transported by the district heating grid.

What is the value of this project for society?

  • contributes to the phase-out of fossil fuels in the energy system
  • balances the electricity grid when electrical production from renewable sources fluctuates
  • makes it possible to use heat sources at very low temperatures, thereby increasing overall energy efficiency
  • is an economically viable option

At what stage of development is this project?

The project began in 2015 and ended in 2019. The final report is available on the HPT TCP website together with task reports and descriptions of cases where heat pumps are implemented in district heating systems. A new follow up project is planned: Flexibility by implementation of heat pumps in multi-vector energy systems and thermal networks.

What government policies could bring this from the lab to the market?

  • supporting the reuse of excess heat from processes and industry
  • stimulating the development of DH grids
  • taxing fossil fuels.

Partners and funders


  • Danish Technological Institute
  • Dansk Fjernvarme
  • Alborg Universitet
  • Johnson Controls Industries
  •  RISE
  • Austrian Institute of Technology
  • TU Graz
  • Hoschschule Luzern
  • Technik & Architektur
  • IGE
  • UK Dept. for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy
  • Glen Dimplex


Governments of Austria, Denmark, Switzerland, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

Learn more

About the Technology Collaboration Programme on Heat Pumping Technologies (HPT TCP)

Established in 1977, the HPT TCP functions as an international framework of co-operation and knowledge exchange for stakeholders in the field of heat pumping technologies used for heating, cooling, air-conditioning and refrigeration in buildings, industries, thermal grids and other applications.

Contact: monica.axell@ri.se