Diss Schubert

The role of spatial planning to support climate-friendly thermal energy supply in Germany and Switzerland

September 2011 – December 2014

Space heat as well as air conditioning has a great share in total energy consumption. Therefore a climate friendly thermal energy supply including renewable energies, combined heat and power (CHP) (or even cooling) and the use of waste heat is highly relevant to reach the goals of climate and energy policy and to reduce CO2 emissions. On the local as well as regional level diverse interdependencies between thermal energy supply and the spatial structure and development can be observed. Especially grid-based system relate to spatial structures, and have to be adapted to place specific settlement and demand structures, urban density, locally available waste heat and renewable energy potentials.

The needed change to a more climate-friendly thermal energy supply demands for an engagement of regional and urban planning. However there is no formal spatial energy planning in Germany, which is responsible for coordination and spatial requirements of energy and especially heat supply, while in Switzerland a formal spatial energy planning, focusing on heat supply, is implemented on cantonal and local level. Its main goal is to define appropriate areas for district heating systems, using renewable energies or waste heat, and to coordinate area specific heat supply systems with spatial development and planning. Of course thermal energy supply is not just a topic of planning and local energy policy, but depending on preferences and decisions of domestic owners and energy supply companies. Therefore a formal spatial energy planning like in Switzerland has to closely cooperate with the main decision-makers.

Against this background the main research question is: How can the governance of climate-friendly thermal energy supply in Germany and Switzerland be described and which is the role of spatial energy as well as overall spatial planning in the different governance frameworks? How can the tasks and instruments of overall spatial planning better be coordinated with those of spatial energy planning?

The main goals are: (1) Analysis of the governance structure of climate friendly thermal energy supply in Germany and Switzerland and identification and description of the role pf spatial planning into the governance framework. (2) Defining conclusions on the relation of spatial and infrastructure planning on the concrete case of energy planning as well as on a general level of spatial and infrastructure planning.

Research design and method: The project is based on a subnational comparison of governance systems in two countries, and is designed as a qualitative, hypothesis-based study. The selection of the two cases is a most similar case design in many parts of the governance structures (e.g. federal and multi-level system, independent local planning,…), but differing with regard to the main explanatory variable, which is the kind of spatial energy planning. The main research methods are analysis of scientific literature as well as planning documents and semi-structured, guided expert interviews.