District energy solutions were analyzed by Mari Hukkalainen (MSc (Eng.)), a Senior Scientist at VTT, under her doctoral dissertation. She collaborated with a team of researchers to develop a tool for realizing an energy-efficient district planning to offer benchmarking information for decision-makers. Such local energy solutions can also pave the way for innovative business opportunities.
Various environmental and energy objectives are aimed at reducing emissions, enhancing the energy efficiency, and increasing the availability of renewable energy. These problems can be overcome by making a huge number of decisions - as well as choices in between alternative plans - by municipal decision-makers and planners, which could have a significant positive effect on emissions and energy efficiency at the local level.
Energy-efficient district planning can be achieved not only by investigating the energy requirements at the district level but also by comparing the environmental effects of alternative energy systems. The tool devised as part of this research will help in realizing the comprehensive evaluation of district energy systems and their environmental effects in Finland. It can also be used to investigate the impacts of district planning choices on local energy requirements, as well as to compare the greenhouse gas emissions from various energy production alternatives. The outcomes can yield innovative options in the discussion and decision making. Hukkalainen investigated 14 real-life district energy studies in her dissertation.
Novel district energy solutions can also open the door for innovative business opportunities. As part of her dissertation, Hukkalainen also prepared a set of business ideas and partial ideas that can be integrated to create business models consistent with local operating conditions, environments, and requirements for district energy services.