Positive energy districts: Mainstreaming energy transition in urban areas

Derkenbaeva, Erkinai; Halleck Vega, Solmaria; Hofstede, Gert Jan; Leeuwen, Eveline Van


The concept of Positive Energy Districts (PEDs) has emerged to facilitate the energy transition and contribute to climate neutrality through energy efficiency and net zero energy balance. There are several similar concepts with a common goal that a building, neighborhood, or district can meet its energy demands from low-cost, locally available, environmentally friendly renewable sources. However, there is a lack of comprehensiveness and consistency among these existing concepts that could lead to misinterpretations. Therefore, the main aim of this study is to develop a comprehensive view on the PED concept with a focus on urban residential areas in Europe, with insights also being useful for other areas. The analysis is based on a literature review of PEDs and similar concepts, as well as a review of PED practical examples. The literature review compares PEDs based on geographical scale, identifying defining elements and metrics that provide insights on how to define and operationalize PEDs. The study reveals that real-life PEDs tend to go beyond the frames set by the definitions because the concept fails to consider the contextual factors that are inherent in them. To develop a comprehensive concept of PEDs, a Complex Adaptive System approach is taken, also incorporating the Doughnut view, which represents the system holistically. This view is also important in designing a resilient system, as energy systems are often exposed to disruptions. Additionally, the study discusses the PED concept's limitations and key issues, such as electric mobility, that merit more attention.