This report presents a pre-study with the aim to map today’s practice when it comes to the connection between district heating expansion and municipal spatial planning. The project was financed by the Swedish District Heating Association and the Swedish Energy Agency and was part of the research programme Fjärrsyn. A reference group consisting of three representatives from the district heating industry followed the progress of the project.
The empirical studies were performed in two parts: one brief study and one deeper study. In the first part representatives from 55 Swedish local authorities were interviewed with the aim to map whether they had planned for new development areas in the last five years and, if so, whether the areas were connected to district heating. Based on the results from the first part six of the municipalities were chosen for a deeper study. The aim of the deeper study was to map the process from spatial planning to connection of new areas to district heating, and to identify barriers and drivers for such district heating expansion. Three respondents were interviewed from each municipality; a planner, an energy advisor and a representative from the district heating company.
Results from the first part showed that most municipalities (90%) that had planned for new developments in the last five years also possessed at least one area that was connected to district heating. The main reason for not connecting new areas was low profitability because of large distances and low heat demand. Also the deeper study indicated low profitability as the main reason for not connecting newly developed areas to district heating.
Two other observations were made in the deeper study:
- Dialogue between district heating companies and local authorities is often sparse
- There are probably knowledge gaps and lack of understanding between spatial planners and district heating companies
Empirical evidence from this study shows that the role of the district heating company in the planning process is often limited to calculating whether district heating expansion is economically feasible. There was however one exception to this general observation: in one municipality there is an ongoing dialogue with frequent meetings between representatives from the district heating company and the local authority.
One reason for the sparse dialogue between planners and the district heating company can be the different professional cultures and different goals for the organisations. Another reason could be lack of knowledge about how spatial planning affects the conditions for district heating.
More frequent dialogue between local authorities and district heating companies could improve the conditions for district heating in new developments. This dialogue should ideally start at the strategic level within municipal energy planning and overall planning. The dialogue should thereafter continue throughout the municipal planning process.
Also broader cooperation between district hearing companies and local authorities could facilitate district heating expansion. Cooperation helps building common visions for the future local energy system, which in turn may also reduce vulnerability of joint projects.
Based on the results from this pre-study, four new research projects were developed. One proposed project builds on the observation of the sparse dialogue between district heating companies and local authorities. Issues to be explored could be: What potential gains are there in broad cooperation between district heating companies and local authorities?
2009. , 56 p.