Urban Infrastructure Dynamics: Market Regulation and the Shaping of District Energy in UK Cities

Ronan Bolton, Timothy J. Foxon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper explores the interaction between urban-scale energy infrastructure and the regulatory regime which underpins the liberalisation of energy systems. Using the example of district energy in a number of UK cities, we outline the ways in which the structure of national electricity markets and the activities of the energy regulator influence and shape the development of low-carbon infrastructure in cities. We draw upon recent contributions to the sociotechnical systems literature which highlights the role of cities in shaping infrastructure transitions and argue that the influence of sector regulation has been underrepresented and underexplored. Our study points to significant tensions and misalignments between a regulatory regime designed to promote economic efficiencies in incumbent national infrastructure sectors and the development of district energy systems at the urban scale. We propose that regulation needs to evolve from its traditional emphasis on promoting competition and short-term efficiencies towards a more dynamic model which is open to alternative logics and low-carbon transition pathways.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2194-2211
Number of pages18
JournalEnvironment and Planning A
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • district energy
  • sociotechnical transitions
  • energy regulation
  • urban infrastructure


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