Smart City Update from Copenhagen: Great potential in reducing energy usage in buildings with artificial intelligence

Can we use artificial intelligence and digital platform solutions to save energy and create climate benefits? Copenhagen Municipality's signature project "Energy optimization of the existing building mass" has investigated this by carrying out implementation tests based on previous pilot tests with flexible solutions within district heating and electricity-driven systems. The aim has been to carry out a practical assessment of the business opportunities for flexible energy.


Intelligent solutions
When the buildings in the City of Copenhagen turn on the heat in the morning along with the rest of the city's households, the district heating companies often have to increase heat production to meet the high demand. Often this happens through the use of fossil fuels such as gas, which is more expensive than green energy and results in more CO2 emissions. The signature project has demonstrated that this challenge can be met by using artificial intelligence and digital platforms that take advantage of flexibility in heat consumption. This is achieved by adjusting the heating time so that the municipal heating takes place outside the city's peak load periods, which promotes the use of green energy.

The problem of peak loads in the electricity grid is found to be more fluctuating during the day, which means that fossil fuel peak load plants have to be activated to handle the increased demand at different times. However, the signature project has shown that flexible use of power for municipal ventilation systems, through the use of artificial intelligence and digital platforms, can help create balance in the electricity system. In this way, the municipality can help support the use of more green energy.


Win-win for climate and economy
The project demonstrates how artificial intelligence can compare data from different sources and optimize the use of district heating and electricity from the consumption side to the benefit of the production side. This enables the reduction of CO2 emissions from individual energy plants and at the same time shows that the investments in these technologies are financially profitable for the municipality. The potential of the project indicates savings in double-digit million amounts for the municipality when flexibility is implemented both within the district heating and electricity areas.


Most important results of the potential calculations
In the work with flexible heat, tests have been carried out in 120 buildings, while in the work with flexible electricity tests have been carried out in 28 buildings with 163 ventilation systems. The results below show the potential of these tests:

  • 100 megawatts, corresponding to around 1,000 tonnes of CO2 reduction for flexible heating.
  • Approximately DKK 4 million in financial savings by using flexible heating instead of buying fossil fuels.
  • An energy saving of between 3 and 7% of the municipality's heat consumption.
  • 60-120 megawatt-timer årligt, svarende til en reduktion på cirka 50-100 tons CO2 for fleksibel elektricitet.
  • Approximately 58 megawatt-hours in savings on electricity consumption and annual savings of over DKK 100,000 for flexible electricity.
  • A payback period of 7-34 months, depending on building type, for flexible electricity.

Although the above calculations are associated with some uncertainties, the project's results show that the technology can now enable flexible energy optimization. However, the full potential of flexibility requires changes to workflows and communication across disciplines and different stakeholders.

Project owner from Copenhagen City Properties, Anders Christian Lyngtorp sees great potential in expanding the use of artificial intelligence for several of the municipality's buildings and projects:

”The project shows that we, from the municipality's side, can use the buildings' automatic controls so that energy is only used when necessary. With this, the municipality can move further towards climate neutrality. Technically, we aim for continuous adjustments to be made automatically rather than manually, and that the adjustments are thereby made at the best possible time.”


Copenhagen shares knowledge in the form of a guide
At the end of the project, a guide has been drawn up from Copenhagen Municipality for the work with flexible energy optimization. This guide is based on the practical experiences from Copenhagen Municipality's signature project. The purpose of the guide is to inspire other municipalities, utility companies and technology suppliers to initiate similar projects in the green transition. In this way, flexible energy solutions can be spread and improved, as more people can build on the new needs that the signature project has identified.

The guide has been prepared in collaboration with the following organisations, which the City of Copenhagen and the project team would like to thank for their participation in the signature project:

  • Project follow-up group: The National Association of Municipalities, the Danish Agency for Digitalisation, the Danish Energy Agency and the Agency for Data Supply and Infrastructure.
  • The technology partners: Danfoss-Leanheat and IBM.
  • The supply cooperation partners: HOFOR, Varmelast, Energi Danmark and Energinet.
  • Contributor to the preparation of the guidelines: AKiLAY.


Facts about the project

  • The signature project is based on experiences from pilot tests in district heating back in 2015 in the project EnergiLab Nordhavn and in electricity supply in 2019 in the project HAL C.
  • The project was carried out as an implementation test that simulated flexibility technologies under realistic conditions in building operations. The purpose was to uncover the actual commercial viability of the technology and changed work processes.
  • Project management is handled by Copenhagen Solutions Lab and anchored in a steering group with management representatives from Copenhagen Properties (Energy and Technology as well as Property data and digitalisation) under the Economic Administration. Future operations will be anchored here.


If you want to read the guide or learn more about the project please contact teamleader in Copenhagen Solutions Lab, Christian Gaarde Nielsen at e-mail