Decentralized heating grid operation: A comparison of centralized and agent-based optimization

Klaus Lichtenegger*, Andreas Leitner, Thomas Märzinger, Christine Mair, Andreas Georg Christian Moser, David Wöss, Christoph Schmidl, Tobias Pröll

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Moving towards a sustainable heat supply calls for decentralized and smart heating grid solutions. One promising concept is the decentralized feed-in by consumers equipped with their own small production units (prosumers). Prosumers can provide an added value regarding security of supply, emission reduction and economic welfare, but in order to achieve this, in addition to advanced hydraulic control strategies also superordinate control strategies and appropriate market models become crucial. In this article we study methods to find a global optimum for the local energy community or at least an acceptable approximation to it. In contrast to standard centralized control approaches, based either on expert rules or mixed integer linear optimization, we adopt an agent-based, decentralized approach that allows for incorporation of nonlinear phenomena. While studied here in small-scale systems, this approach is particularly attractive for larger systems, since with an increasing number of interacting units, the optimization problem becomes more complex and the computational effort for centralized approaches increases dramatically. The agent-based optimization approach is compared to centralized optimization of the same prosumer-based setting as well as to a purely central setup. The comparison is based on the quality of the optimization solution, the computational effort and the scalability. For the comparison of these three approaches, three different scenarios have been set up and analysed for four seasons. In this analysis, no approach has emerged as clearly superior to the others; thus each of them is justified in certain situations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100300
JournalSustainable Energy, Grids and Networks
Issue number21
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2020


  • Bidirectional heat grids
  • Control strategy
  • District heating
  • Nonlinear modelling
  • Optimization
  • Prosumers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment


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