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Research Integrated Research on Energy, Environment and Society | IREES Research

From natural gas to sustainable heat: integrated scenarios for the energy transition in the built environment | Kathelijne Bouw

Kathelijne Bouw
Kathelijne Bouw

Field | Discipline

  • Energy system analysis
  • Built environment


  • Techno-economic modelling
  • Stakeholder participation
  • Social context factors
  • Natural gas free neighbourhoods


To realize the transition to a sustainable energy supply, the consumption of natural gas will have to decrease drastically in the coming years. In particular, the heat supply in the built environment is highly dependent on natural gas. This dependency has led to lock-in of the system, which makes it difficult for sustainable alternatives to enter the market. The relatively low price of the natural gas based heat supply system, sunk costs in existing infrastructure, re-investments in gas (infrastructure), the relation with cooking gas and the role of natural gas as transition fuel are important factors for maintaining the lock-in. Insight is needed in what realistic transition paths are and the way they should be governed. The aim of this PhD research is to identify through which socio-technical transition paths the transition to a sustainable energy supply in the built environment can take place whereby the lock-in of the natural gas based energy system is broken.

The transition to sustainable heat is a complex process, of which both techno-economic and social factors are of influence. Especially the social factors cause uncertainty about the robustness of energy scenarios. There are many uncertainties, such as the development of the heating demand in neighbourhoods (e.g. by improved insulation), the extent to which heat will be related to other energy carriers (e.g. power to heat, fuel cells) in the future energy system, developments in the required infrastructure, development of technologies (e.g. efficiency, purchase costs, fuel costs) and end-user acceptance. In this PhD project realistic transition paths are developed, in which both techno-economic and social factors are analysed and modelled, as well as the system dynamics between these factors (Module 1-3). These integrated scenarios provide insight in what realistic expectations are of how the transition will take place in the current regime and what factors are of influence on the development of the system.

Next to theoretical modelling, the transition process of several frontrunners in the heat transition using a local approach is studied, in relation to the chosen technologies, realisation of goals and time for realisation. Success and failure factors are identified that are of influence for break-out of the technological trajectory, or maintaining lock-in. The developed scenarios will be applied on practical cases and the developed model will be tested in one or more case-studies (Module 4).

The results of the research provide insight for future policy and governance for the transition. In order to develop governance approaches that are successful, area specific strategies are developed that help guide the transition in the built environment (Module 5). To allow large-scale implementation, strategies are needed that take the diversity of neighbourhoods into account and that are generally applicable. These strategies are specific for different types of neighbourhoods, incorporating local characteristics of buildings, cultural and demographic characteristics and involved stakeholders.

Supervision by

More information and contact details can be found on the personal profile of Kathelijne Bouw at the Hanzehogeschool.

Last modified:27 February 2024 12.13 p.m.