Implementing large-scale heating infrastructures: experiences from successful planning of district heating and natural gas grids in Denmark, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands

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Abstract

Large-scale heating infrastructures in the form of district heating have significant potentials to increase energy efficiency and integrate renewables in line with the Paris Agreement and EU targets. Such infrastructures face challenges due to high investment costs, monopoly situations, regulation, and ownership and are often not supported by status-quo market regimes. This paper investigates how Denmark, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands achieved high market shares in their heat supply using large-scale infrastructures between 1950 and 1980. The analysis investigates the drivers, actors, organizations, ownership models, financing, policy, and regulation that was involved in implementing these large-scale infrastructures. The findings illustrate how global events such as the oil crisis in 1973 promoted the need for concerted action. The infrastructures were realized through significant government intervention, coordinated work including repurposing existing infrastructure and actors, deploying new regulations, subsidies, and business models. The conclusions reflect on contemporary heat transitions towards renewable energy supply and how historical lessons are relevant for socio-technical transitions today. New heating infrastructures in the form of district heating should be built according to the specific local conditions, through a combination of government support, new regulatory tools, appropriate business models for recirculating funds into new investments, and by engaging existing actors into developing the new supply systems. Achieving high market shares of large-scale heating infrastructures is not business as usual, but requires significant adjustments in all aspects of energy systems.
Original languageEnglish
Article number64
JournalEnergy Efficiency
Volume14
Issue number7
Number of pages22
ISSN1570-646X
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Keywords

  • District heating
  • Energy infrastructures
  • Energy planning
  • Gas grids
  • Socio-technical transitions

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