Distributed energy systems (DESs) on a local scale constitute a promising niche to leverage the provision of renewable energy. DESs such as micro-cogeneration and multi-energy hubs integrate renewable energy sources, small-scale combined heat/power production, various energy storage methods, and active demand-side management. Research on adopting these systems within existing neighborhood contexts remains scarce, however, particularly on the role of local actors such as local energy utilities, ownership, and the spatial scale of implementation for accelerating the adoption of DESs. In this study, we conducted a systematic review of the relevant scientific literature on the adoption and social acceptance of DESs, followed by a series of semi-structured interviews with representatives of DES pilot implementations. Our findings indicate that local co-ownership and awareness of local benefits tend to improve the acceptance of distributed energy infrastructures. The study found that established energy actors such as energy utilities and grid operators currently test DESs on a local scale in terms of the systems' technical and financial feasibilities. The study also identified major regulatory and structural barriers to DES market adoption that must be overcome to accelerate the current rate of niche development; the study thus contributes to developing DES adoption strategies. We provide future research trajectories that would address the role of spatial proximity and deployment models to attain a more dynamic understanding of the social acceptance of new energy technologies.

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Keywords Distributed energy systems, Energy hub, Energy prosumers, Energy transition, Micro-cogeneration, Smart grid, Social acceptance
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.rser.2017.09.086, hdl.handle.net/1765/102452
Journal Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews
Citation
von Wirth, T. (Timo), Gislason, L. (Linda), & Seidl, R. (Roman). (2017). Distributed energy systems on a neighborhood scale: Reviewing drivers of and barriers to social acceptance. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews. doi:10.1016/j.rser.2017.09.086