Legal governance of smart heat infrastructure development under modes of liberalization: How to analyze and overcome deadlocks in heat projects

Michiel A. Heldeweg*, Maurits Ph.Th. Sanders, Anne V. Brunnekreef

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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The background of this article is how the challenge to accomplish a sustainable energy transition—in service of various objectives, such as environmental and geopolitical concerns—has recently brought the development of smart heat infrastructures to the public agenda. Especially in Metropolitan regions, with more closely knit combinations of urban functions, establishing smart heat infrastructures and possibly connections between infrastructures, to form a heat infrastructure, is regarded as a serious option for developing an alternative energy market next to electricity and natural gas. Orchestration seems key to overcome a stalemate in the realization of heat infrastructures (context) through concerted energy infrastructure planning. This conceptual article aims to support such orchestration by presenting a legal governance typology for heat infrastructures that combines the nature of the infrastructure-regime with the complexity of the infrastructure-functionality. Thus, four ideal-type positions are defined, each with a particular dominant/lead actor position, as standard types of legal governance orchestration, with many in between hybrid positions. Orchestration is further discussed in the context of levels of action situations, contrasting top-down and bottom-up mechanisms influencing orchestration in collective choice towards establishing heat infrastructures. In the conceptualization of this typology in context, the article addresses the example of (considered) changes in Dutch Heat Energy Policy to support multilateral public orchestration, with the ambition of especially promoting the establishment of smart, open heat infrastructures, and avoiding failure of uni- or multilateral private orchestration. The proposed model is presented as a first step towards developing a policy-implementation tool to support the development of smart heat infrastructures.

Original languageEnglish
Article number24
Number of pages13
JournalEnergy, sustainability and society
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2017


  • Action situations
  • Energy transition
  • Heat infrastructures
  • Infrastructure typology
  • Legal governance
  • Orchestration

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