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Environmental impacts of the infrastructure for district heating in urban neighbourhoods


  • Oliver-Solà, Jordi
  • Gabarrell, Xavier
  • Rieradevall, Joan


District heating is a technology for distributing centrally produced heat for space heating and sanitary hot-water generation for residential and commercial uses. The objectives are to identify which subsystems and components of a district heating grid are the main contributors to the overall impact of the infrastructure; and provide environmentally oriented design strategies for the future eco-redesign of these kinds of infrastructures. This paper performs a life-cycle assessment (LCA) to determine the environmental impacts of a district heating infrastructure in an urban neighbourhood context. The analysis covers seven subsystems (power plant, main grid, auxiliary components of the main grid, trench works, service pipes, buildings and dwellings) and twelve standard components. The results for the subsystems show that the sources of impact are not particularly located in the main grid (less than 7.1% contribution in all impact categories), which is the focus of attention in the literature, but in the power plants and dwelling components. These two subsystems together contribute from 40% to 92% to the overall impact depending on the impact categories. Concerning the components, only a reduced number are responsible for the majority of the environmental impact. This facilitates identifying effective strategies for the redesign of the infrastructure.

Suggested Citation

  • Oliver-Solà, Jordi & Gabarrell, Xavier & Rieradevall, Joan, 2009. "Environmental impacts of the infrastructure for district heating in urban neighbourhoods," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 37(11), pages 4711-4719, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:enepol:v:37:y:2009:i:11:p:4711-4719

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Bowitz, Einar & Dang Trong, Maj, 2001. "The social cost of district heating in a sparsely populated country," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 29(13), pages 1163-1173, November.
    2. Bardouille, Pepukaye & Koubsky, Jan, 2000. "Incorporating sustainable development considerations into energy sector decision-making: Malmo Flintranen district heating facility case study," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 28(10), pages 689-711, August.
    3. Gustavsson, L & Karlsson, Å, 2003. "Heating detached houses in urban areas," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 28(8), pages 851-875.
    4. Eriksson, Ola & Finnveden, Goran & Ekvall, Tomas & Bjorklund, Anna, 2007. "Life cycle assessment of fuels for district heating: A comparison of waste incineration, biomass- and natural gas combustion," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 35(2), pages 1346-1362, February.
    5. Agrell, Per J. & Bogetoft, Peter, 2005. "Economic and environmental efficiency of district heating plants," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 33(10), pages 1351-1362, July.
    6. Oliver-Solà, Jordi & Gabarrell, Xavier & Rieradevall, Joan, 2009. "Environmental impacts of natural gas distribution networks within urban neighborhoods," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 86(10), pages 1915-1924, October.
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    Cited by:

    1. Tongpool, Rungnapa & Jirajariyavech, Athiwatr & Yuvaniyama, Chantana & Mungcharoen, Thumrongrut, 2010. "Analysis of steel production in Thailand: Environmental impacts and solutions," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 35(10), pages 4192-4200.
    2. Colmenar-Santos, Antonio & Rosales-Asensio, Enrique & Borge-Diez, David & Collado-Fernández, Eduardo, 2016. "Evaluation of the cost of using power plant reject heat in low-temperature district heating and cooling networks," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 162(C), pages 892-907.
    3. Wang, Bing & Kocaoglu, Dundar F. & Daim, Tugrul U. & Yang, Jiting, 2010. "A decision model for energy resource selection in China," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 38(11), pages 7130-7141, November.
    4. repec:eee:appene:v:211:y:2018:i:c:p:1095-1105 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. repec:eee:appene:v:205:y:2017:i:c:p:345-368 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. repec:eee:rensus:v:90:y:2018:i:c:p:687-699 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. repec:eee:rensus:v:80:y:2017:i:c:p:408-420 is not listed on IDEAS


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