ZuSkE joint project: The future of sector coupling at the municipal level – designing, evaluating, and acting together

Project description

The significant reduction in energy demand, the expansion of renewable energies, and increased sector coupling are central prerequisites for the success of the energy transition and thus for achieving the climate targets set out in the Paris Agreement. Local authorities are key players in this profound transformation process of the energy system towards a climate-friendly energy system. By networking with local actors, they can make an important contribution to the implementation of the energy transition. This also and in particular applies to increased sector coupling. However, the options and technologies available for coupling the different sectors electricity, heating, cooling, industry, and mobility are diverse and complex. In addition, various actors are involved in the coupling process of these sectors, such as municipal utilities, local mobility providers, energy and building cooperatives, other companies, city administrations, and also citizens who work together on the transformation of the energy system.

Against this background, the aim of the ZuSkE joint project is, on the one hand, to develop and evaluate municipal sector coupling strategies in an interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary manner. On the other hand, the project focuses on a user-centered, participatory development of communication tools for local actors to support the municipalities in the transformation process (and beyond). The project is carried out using the example of three municipalities of different sizes and regional conditions. These are Walldorf (Baden-Württemberg) with approx. 16,000 inhabitants, Freilassing (Bavaria) with approx. 16,000 inhabitants, and the city of Berlin with approx. 3.75 million inhabitants. The project also aims to ensure that the methodology and process design can be transferred to other municipalities.

ITAS coordinates the project and is involved in the following research activities:

  • Inter- and transdisciplinary access to communal sector coupling: Workshop-based development of needs and scenarios in the municipalities, identification of literature-based transformation paths and options for action for sector coupling strategies
  • Good Governance for municipal sector coupling strategies: Development of a “map” for sector coupling strategies and a framework for good governance for municipal sector coupling based on participatory observation during the workshops, literature analysis, and interviews to verify and complete the results
  • Reflection and transfer of the methods and results: Identification of similarities and differences between the municipal sector coupling strategies, reflection of the methods and transfer activities to other municipalities, development of overarching strategies for action in terms of multi-level governance (federal, state, municipal)

A more detailed description of the project activities of all participants is available for download as a PDF (in German).

Impressions from the ongoing project

Grafische Darstellung der Vielfalt kommunaler Sektorkopplung
Diversity of sector coupling at the municipal level

“What is municipal sector coupling and what does it have to do with me?”, these or similar questions are frequently asked in the ZuSkE project, especially in discussions with citizens and representatives of the public. In order to be able to answer this question in a comprehensible way, ITAS has developed a system image of municipal sector coupling together with the agency WEBERSUPIRAN. What exactly is this system image supposed to do?

  • It illustrates the diversity of sector coupling at the municipal level by exemplifying various possible technologies as an overall system.
  • It gives an impression of which components can be part of a climate-neutral energy supply for municipalities.
  • It clearly illustrates what can be meant by the term “sector coupling”.

It includes established and widespread approaches such as electromobility, heat pumps and the use of biogenic residues in biogas plants. However, those that are still in development and still need time, such as synthetic fuels, electrolysis plants or Power-t-X plants, are equally taken up. Public facilities can also be found, as can private residential buildings or industrial plants. The image thus not only conveys the diversity of technologies, but also represents how they fit into the larger municipal diversity. We can promise you: there is a lot to discover and it is also worth exploring the details!

The caption illustrates which of the elements are related to which energy carrier and how. A distinction is made between the energy carriers “electricity”, “green (CO2-neutral) gas”, “renewable fuels” and “heat”. These are either provided, stored, consumed or transported. At first glance, the world of municipal sector coupling seems complex. However, it conceals exciting interrelationships that we would like to introduce to you so that the world of tomorrow is already in your sights today.


Limmer, T.; Wohlschlager, D.; Schmieder, L.; Burwitz, M.
Energiewende „bottom-up“ – sektorübergreifend, gemeinschaftlich und lösungsorientiert
2022, October 6. 5. INSIST-Tagung: Interdisciplinary Network for Studies Investigating Science and Technology (2022), Berlin, Germany, October 6–7, 2022 
Scheer, D.
Experimenting the territories: stimulating bottom-up approaches for innovation
2022. 7ème Forum Franco-Allemand: Territoires, Mobilités, Transition énergétique et numérique: Quelle pertinence sociale? (2022), Strasbourg, France, October 21, 2022 
Science Communication on the Internet


Lisa Schmieder
Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)
Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS)
P.O. Box 3640
76021 Karlsruhe

Tel.: +49 721 608-23007

PD Dr. Dirk Scheer
Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)
Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS)
P.O. Box 3640
76021 Karlsruhe

Tel.: +49 721 608-22994