EU Launches Energy Supply and Demand Simulation Platform

June 19, 2023 by Shannon Cuthrell

A new European Union-funded platform lets industrial producers calculate capacities and map the supply/demand of waste heat to potential users interested in reusing their excess energy.

EMB3Rs, a research and development project funded by the European Union, recently wrapped up nearly four years of work on an open-source energy supply and demand simulation platform that matches sources and consumers of excess heat. 


The EMB3Rs platform

The EMB3Rs platform allows industrial plants to reduce emissions by supplying excess heat to nearby users. Image used courtesy of EMB3Rs


The platform allows industries generating excess heat to resupply it to users near their location, opening up a potential income pathway with the added benefit of reducing emissions by redirecting waste energy. 

The tool pairs thermal energy producers with potential demand sources, targeting industrial users such as manufacturing plants. Users can input their location and available excess thermal energy, and the platform calculates capacities and maps waste heat supply and demand. EMB3Rs can then recommend the cheapest option and connect the two parties. 

The EMB3Rs project started in September 2019 with a $4.56 million budget, mostly covered by a $4.28 million grant contribution from the European Union. It involves 16 partners and seven demonstration sites in eight countries across the EU. Its stated purpose was to develop an open-source tool to support a bottom-up energy supply and demand framework, simulating the cost benefits of alternative options for recovering and reusing excess heat for various industries. Overall, it aimed to match sources and sinks for extra heat and cooling, exploring the relevant business cases and optimizing the techno-economic parameters to save costs. 


How EMB3Rs Works

EMB3Rs project coordinator Mafalda Silva termed the platform “the Uber of excess heat.” Several European industry stakeholders supplied data and testing to assess its potential use for thermal energy recovery across their operations. The project’s partners include universities, consultancies like Berlin-based think-tank Adelphi, and companies such as IT firm PDMFC and manufacturing giant Emerson. 


EMB3Rs platform allows industrial producers to find nearby users needing waste heat

The EMB3Rs platform allows industrial producers to find nearby users needing waste heat. Image used courtesy of the European Science Communication Institute 


The platform can simulate several business and market models for district heating and cooling systems, featuring five modules: The core functionalities module allows users to input heat sources and sinks and optimize internal excess heating/cooling. A district heating and cooling network is then mapped using the Geographical Information System (GIS) module. 


techno-economic optimization report simulated through the EMB3Rs platform

An example of a techno-economic optimization report simulated through the EMB3Rs platform. Image used courtesy of EMB3Rs


The techno-economic optimization module identifies the cheapest technology combinations for excess reuse. Finally, the market module simulates generation schedules and market pricing, while the business module calculates the net present value and return-on-investment metrics under different ownership and market conditions. 


Backed by Several Case Studies

The project supported ten published studies demonstrating the tool’s use in different countries and industries. Additionally, several case studies went into designing, testing, and validating the platform in real-world scenarios. 

For example, one case study analyzed cost-effective heat recovery and reuse options at a cement plant in Portugal. The facility’s owner, CIMPOR-Indústria de Cimentos, wanted to explore reusing excess heat in existing internal processes, such as power generation or other uses close to the site. The case study identified points along the production chain with potential material and energy efficiency improvements. EMB3Rs also explored the possibility of using excess heat for alternative fuel drying, district heating, or energy storage. This same procedure was also applied to another case study at a metal casting company in the United Kingdom. 


Video used courtesy of EMB3Rs


Another case study used the EMB3Rs platform to model the large-scale district heat/cold network of Parque das Nações in Lisbon, Portugal. The network uses natural gas as its primary energy and a trigeneration unit to serve heat/cooling and electricity. 

The case study assessed the feasibility of adding new heat sources to the network, simulating excess heat usage (either through local industrial facilities or potentially a waste incinerator), and identifying techno-economic considerations for the connection and supply/demand match. Climaespaço, a subsidiary of France-based utility giant ENGIE Group, initially estimated that the tool would help it reach a 50% reduction in natural gas use in the network, cutting 80 gigawatt-hours of energy use annually and 15,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year.