WIT Press

District heating system: evaluation of environmental and economic aspects


Free (open access)


Volume 1 (2018), Issue 4



Page Range

420 - 432

Paper DOI



WIT Press




With the need for limiting pollutant emissions, careful management of energy plants should be considered to reduce the footprints that can be caused by these systems. Advantages of district heating (DH) systems have been linked to a decrease in local and global emissions, centralized heat production located outside urban centres, possible utilization of renewable heat sources.

District heating, consisting of the distribution of hot water by means of underground networks for the buildings’ heating and sanitary water, is an ever-expanding technology that allows the optimization of energy resources, with positive consequences in terms of both economic savings and environmental impacts.

The aim of this work is to analyse the district heating system from an environmental point of view, in way to realize a general procedure of evaluation. To this end, the Italian city of Turin is taken as case study. Turin has long been subject to high concentration levels of pollutants, especially NOx and particulate. The environmental compatibility of extending the district heating network is evaluated. Two different tools are used: first, the environmental balance is defined to perform an evaluation of the flux modification at the emission sources; secondly, the atmospheric impacts of emissions are estimated using CALPUFF dispersion model. The results show a future reduction in overall NOx  emission, as well as a reduction of ground level average NOx concentration ranging between 0.2 and 4 μg/m3. This study provides important information on the effects of a change of the energy configuration on air quality in an urban area. The proposed comprehensive methodology is applicable for other similar cases. 


district heating system, environmental evaluation, mass balance, NOx, pollutant dispersion model