Green transition calls for collaboration in district heating sector

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisCollection of Articles


By 2030, roughly 60% of the global population is expected to live in cities. Globally, cities consume ~75% of energy and contribute a similar share of emissions. Buildings and construction were responsible for 37% of energy-related emissions in 2020. As urbanisation has progressed, the Western world has developed a reliance on fossil fuels and international supply chains, which has gone hand in hand with a reliance on large, centralised energy systems such as combined heat and power plants, electricity, district heat and gas networks. Traditionally, district heat networks have increased system flexibility and security of the heat supply. However, the international supply chains of centralised systems have recently proven to be susceptible to shocks and are difficult to pivot quickly into using renewable fuels and at reasonable costs. Decentralised building-specific systems, such as ground source heat pumps and demand side management, have been developed to decrease energy costs and emissions for real estate owners. These investments are often profitable for real estate owners. This thesis investigates the impact of these energy investments for real estate owners and district heat companies and how they could be directed more efficiently, taking into consideration the system impact. Centralised seasonal heat storage was also studied. The results show that ground source heat pumps are often profitable for real estate owners with returns exceeding the yield of the real estate investment. Heat pump investments with excess heat production should be targeted to areas of large heat losses in the district heat network for a beneficial impact on the system. Demand side management was also found to decrease heating costs, and centralised seasonal heat storage was found to effectively decrease system emissions. Collaborative thinking is missing from the energy sector, in which district heat companies and real estate owners consider each other equal partners in energy investments. Increasing collaboration between the parties requires a change in mindsets. District heat companies must revamp their business models from one-size-fits-all to a more individualistic approach in which the location and energy use of the customer are considered when offering services and developing pricing models. This change must begin with the district heat company since real estate owners have other options for energy partners and because increased system costs caused by leaving customers decrease competitiveness.
Translated title of the contributionVihreä siirtymä edellyttää yhteistyötä kaukolämpösektorilla
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor's degree
Awarding Institution
  • Aalto University
  • Junnila, Seppo, Supervising Professor
  • Vimpari, Jussi, Thesis Advisor
  • Kontu, Kaisa, Thesis Advisor
Print ISBNs978-952-64-1392-1
Electronic ISBNs978-952-64-1393-8
Publication statusPublished - 2023
MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)


  • district heating
  • energy transition
  • real estate
  • heat pumps
  • demand side management
  • heat storage
  • business collaboration


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