Service sector has sizeable impact on urban energy demand

News - 21 February 2019 - Communication

A better understanding of the energy demands of various users in the city – households and services such as schools, offices and shops – can facilitate urban energy transition. Nina Voulis offers this insight in her dissertation entitled Harnessing Heterogeneity, with which she will be awarded her PhD at TU Delft on 22 February 2019. 

Demand for energy is increasingly concentrated in cities, which is why urban energy transition is vitally important. However, while we already know a great deal about generating energy from renewable sources, our knowledge of the specific energy requirements of users lags behind. ‘Up until now, local demand was assessed based purely on households, but the reality is that cities are home to a mix of households and services such as schools, offices and shops,’ explains Nina Voulis. ‘We know a lot about the energy demand at the level of buildings or consumers, and at a national or even international level. However, the urban level in between has been given too little attention.’

Supply and demand
‘That is due to our traditional power stations, which can be controlled centrally. However, for the transition to generating energy from renewable, non-controllable and decentralised sources, we need to be able to bring supply and demand into line much more effectively,’ says Voulis. Most energy system models currently use the demand profiles of households. Voulis’ analysis of more than 14,000 urban areas in the Netherlands – municipalities, districts and neighbourhoods – revealed that the service sector cannot be ignored when modelling urban energy demand.

Heterogeneous energy demand
One of the most significant challenges when modelling the energy demand of both services and urban areas is the lack of detailed, publicly available data such as demand profiles. Demand profiles detail the variations in energy demand over time: households peak in the evening, while services primarily use electricity during office hours. Households and services are also not proportionally distributed over urban areas: some areas are residential, others are commercial or have a mixed function. Urban energy demand therefore varies dramatically according to location and time. This heterogeneity influences the extent to which urban areas can use generated energy locally, and therefore also impacts policy focused on storage or demand control.

The results and insights gained from this research will help authorities, companies and citizens as they work towards successful energy transition.

More information
Friday, 22 February 2019, 15:00, Aula Building, Mekelweg 5 in Delft
Promotion Nina Voulis – Harnessing Heterogeneity – Understanding Urban Demand to Support the Energy Transition.

Promotor 1: Prof. F.M. Brazier (TPM); Promotor 2: Dr M.E. Warnier (TPM)

Contact Nina Voulis:, +31 6 236 51515
Sharita Balgobind, TU Delft Science Information Officer,, +31 15 2781588