The important thing is to never stop questioning" Albert Einstein

With that in mind, we've collected all questions from our past webinars and grouped them here accompanied by an answer.

More questions? Good! Contact us and we'll get back to you as soon as possible.

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Q: Is it only possible to reduce peaks only during cold winter days or also during daily peaks?

A: We can achieve short-time peak shaving (15min-2h) for peaks during the day (e.g. the morning peak and evening peak). It is however not possible to shave the entire daily consumption as the building indoor temperature would drop too much which could lead to comfort issues.

Q: If you shift a peak, will that have an impact on the total yearly heat demand of the buildings?

A: In most cases, we don't see an increase in the heat demand as we control the indoor temperature more accurately. Actually, we even see a slight drop in the yearly energy consumption of the buildings in the demonstration projects. 

Q: Is it possible to implement storage in the piping also in small(er) networks?

A: The larger the network the larger the storage capacity. Each network can store thermal energy in the piping, but a smaller network has less storage capacity than a larger network.

Q: Which data do you need to get from the housing side? Are there some difficulties with EU GDPR? Do you need allowance to external control on the housings in the heating system? And who has the control: the utility or the STORM Controllers AI?

A: We use the heat meter data which is already used for billing purposes, so actually we don't use extra data. In recent networks, there are automated heat meters that measure supply temperature, return temperature, and flow rate at the primary side of the substation. In that case, this data is used. About control, we need to influence the heating system and the heat demand of the building. Somehow it has to interact with the BMS (building management system) or heating substation controller in a direct or indirect way. The indirect way can be done by influencing the outdoor temperature readings. Related to GDPR, we never know which buildings we are controlling and we do not track or aggregate data from individual customers.

Q: For STORM, I think a challenge is to interact with the building control system to make your optimal control actions happen. What is generally the effort (costs) to do this? And what is the impact for the building owner?

How do you get the building owner to cooperate or even let him contribute to the costs for (necessary) hardware and software changes in the building?

A: The costs depend on the building type and whether it has a BMS (building management system) or other advanced control. In smaller or older buildings we use an alternative way e.g. with extra hardware to override the outdoor temperature readings. Related to the impact on the building owner it needs to be discussed between the network operator and the building owner. The main benefits are in general for the network operator, but there are also some direct benefits for the building owner (we saw a more stable indoor temperature and a small reduction in the heat demand in the demonstration sites). We first focus on controlling the larger buildings in the network with higher energy consumption, and options could be explored with the network operator if to share some of the benefits with the building owners.

Q: When you don't know which building exactly you are controlling, how do you find the optimized control for the DH network on a hydraulic view? As the optimal status might be different for two identical buildings at beginning and end of the grid?

A: For now we do not take into account the network typology and the position of the building in the network, yet. At the moment we ignore the delays since we don't see that the increasing complexity delivers a lot of advantages for peak shaving.

Q: Do you have some available standard nomenclature for the naming of each individual sensor in the system?

A: There is no standard nomenclature for naming of sensors by default, but the user is free to set a display name for each individual sensor, thereby having the possibility to create a nomenclature methodology if desired.

Q: Do you intend to go beyond the scope of district heating with your FLEXharvester platform ? e.g. power

A: Yes, VITO/EnergyVille will provide other applications than STORM District Energy Controller on the FLEXharvester platform. The next application on our technology roadmap is Smart Electric Vehicle Charging. A high-level overview can be found here.

For more information, please contact our colleague Thomas Polfliet, thomas.polfliet@vito.be, +32 14 33 58 02.

Q: Will you include solutions for electrical flexibility in the future?

A: Yes, we will include a range of solutions for electrical flexibility, starting with “Smart Electric Vehicle Charging”. Later on, solutions for residential flexibility can be expected.

Q: What about the STORM (license/service) costs for the customer?

A: For a FLEXharvester STORM District Energy Controller Pilot, a project price is offered. For a FLEXharvester STORM District Energy Controller Solution or Tech Transfer, the license/service costs for the district heating network operator are settled with the Solution Partner.

More info on pricing models can be found here

Q: For which sizes of heat networks or energy demand is this an economically interesting option?

A: What a good district heating network candidate for a FLEXharvester STORM District Energy Controller Pilot would be, can be read here.

Q: Is there some test area to get familiar with the tool and get an inside view and some idea of how the product/tool is working and could be used in an exemplary DH system?

A: VITO/EnergyVille has implemented FLEXharvester STORM District Energy Controller on the VITO Mol premises. See for more info here, on slides 4-6. However, this test network is currently only accessible by VITO/EnergyVille. Upon request, we can look into it to make part of this testing area available to friendly users.

Q: We are a district heating network operator, and we want to do a Pilot. What is VITO/EnergyVille’s approach?

A: For our approach to a Pilot project, see here.

Q: We are a Solution Provider, how can we best start with FLEXharvester STORM District Energy Controller.

A: An ISV Onboarding Package is available, for more information see here.

Q: We are a Solution Provider, what is the capability we need for each FLEXharvester technology product Pilot – Solution – Tech Transfer?

A: For an overview of the high-level capability qualifications for a Solution Partner, see here.

Q: Are there plans to offer this as an ESCO service?

A: No, VITO/EnergyVille, being a Technology Provider, has no plans to offer FLEXharvester STORM District Energy Controller as an ESCO service. However, we expect that some of our Solution Partners will have esco’s as their customers.

Q: Does every consumer needs a Azure license or is it included in FLEXharvester?

A: For FLEXharvester STORM District Energy Controller Pilot, the Azure license and consumption are included in the project price. For FLEXharvester STORM District Energy Controller Solution and Tech Transfer, the Azure-related costs are carried by the Solution Partner.

Q: What do we need to promise/offer the customers, that they will allow us to get some level of control at their heating system?

A: Building owners/customers could be offered:

  • Insights that with the system a more stable indoor temperature and a small reduction in the heat demand could be reached;
    => we saw a more stable indoor temperature and a small reduction in the heat demand in the demonstration sites
  • Financial compensation for allowing to unlock the thermal flexibility of their building;
  • The incentive of contributing to sustainability, as FLEXharvester STORM District Energy Controller improves the CO2 reduction and allows easier production connectivity to renewable sources;
  • Increased customer satisfaction as the district heating operator interacts with them not only in a financial transactional way but involves them in the optimization of the district heating network.

Erik De Schutter

Business Developer Thermal Energy Systems at EnergyVille/VITO