The purpose with this review is to provide a presentation of the background for the current position for district heating and cooling in the world, with some deeper insights into European conditions. The review structure considers the market, technical, supply, environmental, institutional, and future contexts. The main global conclusions are low utilisation of district heating in buildings, varying implementation rates with respect to countries, moderate commitment to the fundamental idea of district heating, low recognition of possible carbon dioxide emission reductions, and low awareness in general of the district heating and cooling benefits. The cold deliveries from district cooling systems are much smaller than heat deliveries from district heating systems. The European situation can be characterised by higher commitment to the fundamental idea of district heating, lower specific carbon dioxide emissions, and higher awareness of the district heating and cooling benefits. The conclusions obtained from the six contexts analysed show that district heating and cooling systems have strong potentials to be viable heat and cold supply options in a future world. However, more efforts are required for identification, assessment, and implementation of these potentials in order to harvest the global benefits with district heating and cooling.
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