Most institutions and industrial actors believe that district heating infrastructures can play a key role in changing urban systems towards greater sustainability and accelerate the transition to more efficient and low-carbon energy systems. We tested this belief on the Italian case, starting from a census of all existing plants, subdivided by sources of supply and business organization models. We have isolated two types of district heating, urban and rural. We found that they are different in relation to their approach to energy transition. In rural areas, networks constitute systems that can empower the local techno-institutional complex to achieve a technological leap. Set in a pre-existing social network, district heating reinforces the sense of community and allows the involvement of various local players in a collective project. In the case of biomass, we are faced with local systems that have almost completed the transition with regard to the production of thermal and sometimes electric energy. In urban areas, on the other hand, networks represent functional devices for the stabilization of the techno-institutional complex. They allow cities to work on the circularity of some economies, generating added value from the same factors of production. Eventually the clear difference between urban and rural contexts highlights the need to consider the ambivalence of district heating technology.

District heating and ambivalent energy transition paths in urban and rural contexts

Giovanni Carrosio;Natalia Magnani
2020-01-01

Abstract

Most institutions and industrial actors believe that district heating infrastructures can play a key role in changing urban systems towards greater sustainability and accelerate the transition to more efficient and low-carbon energy systems. We tested this belief on the Italian case, starting from a census of all existing plants, subdivided by sources of supply and business organization models. We have isolated two types of district heating, urban and rural. We found that they are different in relation to their approach to energy transition. In rural areas, networks constitute systems that can empower the local techno-institutional complex to achieve a technological leap. Set in a pre-existing social network, district heating reinforces the sense of community and allows the involvement of various local players in a collective project. In the case of biomass, we are faced with local systems that have almost completed the transition with regard to the production of thermal and sometimes electric energy. In urban areas, on the other hand, networks represent functional devices for the stabilization of the techno-institutional complex. They allow cities to work on the circularity of some economies, generating added value from the same factors of production. Eventually the clear difference between urban and rural contexts highlights the need to consider the ambivalence of district heating technology.
2020
19-mag-2020
Pubblicato
https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/1523908X.2020.1767548
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11368/2965200
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