Collaboration in the local DHC-chain: A bottom-up integrated framework fostering broad-based solutions


The sustainable energy transition asks for new and innovative solutions in the way society, government, energy market and clients (end users) approach energy distribution and consumption.

The energy transition provides great opportunity to develop innovative solutions where in the dense built environment district heating and cooling are being strongly advocated. Traditionally, the energy systems in urban districts have been regulated by a top-down approach. With the rise of local and distributed sustainable sources for urban heating and cooling, the complexity of the heat/cold chain is increasing. Therefore, an organic and bottom-up approach is being requested, where the public authorities have a facilitating and/or directive role. There is a need for a new and open framework for collaboration between stakeholders. A framework that provides insight into the integral consideration of heating and cooling solutions on district level in terms of: organisation, technology and economy (OTE). This research therefore focuses on developing this integral framework towards widely supported heating and cooling solutions among district stakeholders. Through in-depth interviews, workshops and focus groups discussions, relevant stakeholders in local district heating/cooling of varying backgrounds and expertise have been consulted. This has led to two pillars in a framework. Firstly the definition of Key Success Factors and Key Performance Indicators to evaluate technical solutions in light of the respective context. Secondly, an iterative decision making process among district stakeholders where technical scenarios, respective financial business cases and market organisation​ are being negotiated. Fundamental proposition of the framework is the recurrent interaction between OTE factors throughout the entire decision making process. In order to constantly assure broad-based support, the underlying nature of possible barriers for collaboration are identified in a stakeholder matrix, informing a stakeholder strategy. It reveals an open insight of the interests, concerns, and barriers among all stakeholders, where solutions can be developed effectively.

Reference Schilstra, N., Willems, E., & Heller, R. (2021). Collaboration in the local DHC-chain: A bottom-up integrated framework fostering broad-based solutions. Energy Reports, 7(Supplement 4), 37-46.
Published by  Kenniscentrum Techniek 1 October 2021

Publication date

Oct 2021


Niels Schilstra
Eric Willems


Research database