District Heating in Dobbiaco-San Candido (IT)


Starting point and idea

As one of the coldest places in Italy and as an important tourist resort in the winter, Dobbiacco (population of 3,200) has a high space heat demand. Until the 1980s this has been mainly satisfied by old and inefficient oil boilers. Ecological aspects play an important role in the development of the municipality. Therefore, in the 1990s, the decision makers were looking for alternative ways of generating energy. The idea was to deliver heat to the inhabitants with as low costs as possible by using local resources. Eventually, after undertaking several feasability studies the decision was made to build a biomass district heating plant. In the year 1995 the first boiler was installed, providing heat to 160 costumers. Over the years the number of customers grew. The adjacent municipality of San Candido (population of 3,200) decided to join the district heating system in the year 2000.

Success through cooperation

From the beginning it was clear that the project could only be succesfull if all stakeholders and interest groups were involved in the process. The workgroup for the project comprised therefore of members from the hotel, the industrial and the agricultural sectors. The workgroup decided to implement and manage the district heating system in the form of a non-profit cooperative. Every client is automatically also a member of this cooperative. As it turned out, the chosen legal form increased the acceptance by the population, since it made clear from the beginning that the district heating system is designed to increase the common good of the municipality and its population.

How did/does it work?

The district heating plant is managed in form of a non-profit cooperative. Every member has independently of his/her connected load equal right when voting on decisions in plenary meetings. About 75% of the wood comes from the local area; mainly wood waste from three nearby sawmills. In order to promote the local forestry business the cooperative of Dobbiaco, together with other cooperatives from the Puster Valley, set a special price (75% higher than the average market price) for the wood of local farmers. The remaining 25% of the wood used mainly comes from the nearby Austrain region of East-Tyrol. In the future the plans of the cooperative are to set up an energy agency that will consult the members in aspects of energy consumption that go beyond the district heating (e.g. energy efficient building, electricity saving etc.).


With the increasing customer base the heat demand and hence number of installed boilers grew. At present there are three boilers: two with a capacity of 4 MW each and one with 10 MW. Furthermore, a ORC (Organic Rankine Cycle)module with a capacity of producing 1.5 MW of electricity has been installed. To date the ORC module is the biggest in Europe. The number of customers (and members) is approximately 700. 85% of all the households of the two municipalities are connected. In the last two years the cooperative has been able to reduce the costs/kWh for the end consumer by 6.5%. In the year 2008 this price was 6.4 Cent/kWh almost 50% lower than the kWh from petrol (12.4 Cent/kWh). In the future the objetive of the cooperative is to keep the prices stable. Several important awards recognized the innovative character of the district heating:

  • 1997: Premio Nazionale Carnia Alpe Verde – Abete d’Argento
  • 1998: Arge Alp Award 1998 in Bronze
  • 1998: ENEA – Special Award 1998
  • 2006: European Solar Award 2005-2006.


Since the beginning of its construction the heating plant in Dobbiaco-San Candido has evoked a lot of interest on a local, national and international level. In the wake of its implementation in the region several other district heating projects were started. So far in South Tyrol 46 district heating plants with capacity of more than 1 MW have been installed. Many of these plants are organised also as a cooperative. In order to increase the awareness of the population of the advantages of biomass heating, a visitor display has been created that offers an insight into the process of generating electrical and thermal energy using biomass. The show path was the first of its kind in Europe.


Ökoinstitut Südtirol/Alto Adige
Via Talvera 2
I-39100 Bolzano
+39 (0) 471 980048

District heating power plant
Dobbiaco-San Candido
Via Stazione 8
I-39034 Dobbiaco
+39 (0) 474 973214




  • 85 % of households connected
  • 75 % of strictly local wood
  • Organisation as a cooperative
  • Costs more than 50 % lower than fossil fuel
  • Prize-winning and inspriational project

Click on pic to visit project website in IT, EN, DE

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