Distributed energy sources, such as self-power generation, steam boilers, and combined heat and power production (CHP), are operated to manage the supply of energy by optimizing the costs of meeting the demand for electricity and heat. This article was written in conjunction with reports by the United Nations Environment Program's International Resource Panel that quantifies and compares the environmental and natural resource impacts and benefits of using demand-side efficient technologies for greenhouse gas mitigation scenarios from now until 2050. In this article, we examine the potential of using distributed energy sources in future energy systems. First, we reviewed the existing research into several energy technologies, especially into cogeneration systems for CHP, using a bibliometric analysis. The current energy supply/demand in the demand-side sectors in Japan is also reviewed using available statistical data, and an investigation into the energy requirements of industrial manufacturers was performed. After systematizing the results of our review on progress in current research, a scenario analysis was conducted on the potential of distributed energy sources to clarify the contribution of the various technology options. A mismatch between the quality of energy produced, especially heat, or any benefits arising from scale from other energy technologies, can decrease the incentive to implement distributed energy technologies. As a requirement of a regional energy system design and management, distributed energy sources should be considered so that the appropriate technology options can be adopted for the desired energy supply in the demand-side sector. The possibility exists to replace conventional single-generation technologies, such as boilers or power generators, with multigeneration technologies. A change in the grid power mix is one of the most sensitive parameters affecting the performance of cogeneration technologies.
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