District heating as the infrastructure for competition among fuels and technologies

Poul Erik Grohnheit, Bent Ole Gram Mortensen

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    District heating networks offer the possibility of competition between a wide range of fuels for combustion as well as technologies for comfort heat and cooling in buildings. For decades, cogeneration of electricity and heat for industrial processes or district heating has been a key technology for increased energy efficiency. Additional technologies suitable for small-scale networks are heat pumps, solar panels and local biomass in the form of straw or biogas. For large-scale urban networks, incineration of urban waste and geothermal heat are key technologies. With heat storages district heating infrastructure can contribute significantly to balancing the intermittency of wind power.
    This paper is an update of the authors' article published in Energy Policy in 2003 focusing on the European directives focusing on competition in the electricity and gas network industries and promotion of renewables and cogeneration but limited support for the development and expansion of the district heating infrastructure. It was partly based on a contribution to the Shared Analysis Project for the European Commission Directorate-General for Energy, concerning the penetration of combined heat and power (CHP), energy saving, and renewables as instruments to meet the targets of the Kyoto Protocol within the liberalised European energy market.
    The update will focus on recent research on district heating in North Europe, which covers not only the physical infrastructure, but also the very important immaterial infrastructure, such as the legal and institutional framework. This includes the experience with market places for electricity trade on an hourly basis over the last two decades. Improved modelling tools and modelling experience will add to the development and performance of district heating systems.
    Finally, we summarise the tasks for a European policy concerning the future regulation of district heating net-works for CHP, emphasising the need for rules for a fair competition between natural gas and district heating networks and the need for integration between energy systems.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalJournal of Energy Challenges and Mechanics
    Issue number2
    Pages (from-to)64-69
    Number of pages6
    Publication statusPublished - 2016


    • Infrastructure
    • District heating
    • Competition
    • Energy market
    • Legal Framework


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