Eco.District.Heat - Potentials and restrictions of grid-bound heating systems of urban areas

Aim of the project Eco.District.Heat is to provide strategic decision-making support that enables Austrian towns and cities to deal with aspects of grid-bound heating (and cooling) systems in accordance with integrated spatial and energy planning from a holistic perspective when elaborating urban energy concepts.

Short Description

Starting point/Motivation

Conurbations are growing. Frequently, growth is still associated with increased energy consumption and higher environmental impacts. At the same time, major climate-protection efforts and a consistent transformation of the energy system are an imperative in the light of the Paris Agreement. Concerning internal and external urban development – meaning conversion and densification of existing built structures as well as extension in fringe areas – some issues with respect to the choice of appropriate technological networks for heat and power supply have not yet been clarified sufficiently. On the one hand, it is possible to generate surplus energy from plus energy houses that, however, does not necessarily correspond to the respective energy demand considering spatio-temporal aspects. On the other hand, urban areas dispose over considerable waste heat potentials from power generation, waste incineration, industry and wastewater treatment infrastructure that can be exploited via district heating systems. In this area of conflict, energy-oriented urban planning and urban design has to be implemented considering urban structure, technological options, economic considerations, environmental and climate protection as well as resilience to energy crisis.

Contents and Objectives

Under these circumstances several questions arise, concerning grid-bound supply systems: (1) Are grid-bound energy systems sustainable in the long-run, especially when considering possibilities of decentralized energy supply and energy-efficient buildings? (2) If yes, which forms of grid-bound energy supply should be prioritized? (3) If one or both grids are already present in an area, is it meaningful to dismantle or decommission one of the systems taking energy- and material-flow perspectives as well as resilience aspects into account? (4) How does the prosumer-issue influence grid design?


The project Eco.District.Heat provides strategic decision-making support for Austrian cities with respect to grid-bound energy supply systems. Based on a system analysis approach, development scenarios until 2050 are derived and urban areas are characterised. Built upon the characterisation a qualitative and quantitative assessment - in the sense of a "kit" or "toolbox" - is conducted on four levels: (1) "Integrated Spatial and Energy Planning", (2) "Costs", (3) "Resources" and (4) "Environment and Climate". Thus, urban areas can be analysed with regard to spatial, energetic, material, ecologic and economic aspects.


Project results are summarized in a strategy report and in target-group-specific information packages as well as in the form of a "kit". This "kit" allows to model existing or planned urban neighbourhoods and analyse them with quantitative and qualitative criteria concerning their potential to provide long-term supply with grid-bound heating and cooling. In this way, the project results can be broadly applied in urban planning and urban development in Austria.

Prospects/Suggestions for future research

The final outcomes of the research project will support municipalities to identify relevant urban areas that are suitable for grid-bound energy supply systems and possibly to increase the share of connected buildings to already existing networks. Furthermore, the "kit" enables local spatial planning to react to the requirements of grid-bound energy supply systems. This circumstance will support moderately dense and multi-functional urban fabrics. Additional research is needed in order to continuously improve the proposed methodology.

Project Partners

Project management

University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna - Institute of Spatial Planning and Rural Development

Project or cooperation partners

  • Austrian Energy Agency
  • Resource Management Agency

Contact Address

University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna - Institute of Spatial Planning and Rural Development
Assoc. Prof. DI Dr. Gernot Stöglehner
Peter-Jordan-Straße 82
A-1190 Wien
Tel.: +43 (1) 47654-85518
Fax: +43 (1) 47654-85509