Decentralised combined heat and power in the German Ruhr Valley; assessment of factors blocking uptake and integration

Birte Viétor, Thomas Hoppe, Joy S. Clancy

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Abstract

Background: In Germany, the energy system is undergoing reorganisation from a centralised system based on fossil fuels and nuclear power to a sustainable system based on decentralised production and consumption of energy, the so-called Energiewende. Recently, there has been more attention to improving energy efficiency in those regions where conventional energy production activities and energy-intensive industries are located, such as the Ruhr area. Although the potential for decentralised combined heat and power (CHP) units is high in this region, local action plans show only modest developments for this technology. In this paper, we address this issue by answering the following research question: Which factors block the uptake and integration of decentralised CHP in the German Ruhr area's energy system?

Methods: The multilevel perspective (MLP) was used to analyse the state of system innovation in relation to the uptake and integration of decentralised CHP technology. Prior to the MLP analysis, a stakeholders' analysis was conducted to identify stakeholders' views, positions and experienced barriers regarding the uptake and integration of decentralised CHP technology. Data collection included review of text documents and conducting 11 interviews.

Results: Due to many regime barriers blocking niche development, the uptake of decentralised CHP technology is limited. Identified barriers relate to lack of market services and mismatches with user preferences, (sectoral) policies and industrial interests.

Conclusions: Observed barriers relate to (i) lack of market services such as financial means for making investments; (ii) user awareness such as unawareness and information deficit regarding the benefits of decentralised CHP to potential users, (iii) the presence of centralised district heating systems, (iv) policy issues such as lack of sufficient policies supporting diffusion of decentralised CHP units, legal stipulations from social housing policies that prevent housing cooperatives from becoming energy producers and district heating systems owned by public and private owners (via concessions contracts); (v) sector issues such as lack of skilledservice-providing companies; and (vi) industrial interested such as the vested interests of the coal and gasindustry. Moreover, many of the mentioned barriers seem interrelated, especially those concerning policy and finance available for making upfront investments.
Original languageEnglish
Article number5
Number of pages16
JournalEnergy, sustainability and society
Volume5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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