Sustainable Energy for All
In September 2011, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL) as a global initiative in support of making sustainable energy for all a reality by 2030. SEforALL mobilizes action from all sectors of society including governments, business and civil society to deliver the three objectives of SEforALL by 2030:
- Ensure universal access to modern energy services.
- Double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency.
- Double the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix.
The Global Energy Efficiency Accelerator Platform was established to help reach SEforALL’s energy efficiency objective. The Platform aims to scale up efficiency gains and investments at the national, subnational and city levels through technical assistance, support and public-private sector collaboration. Six individual accelerators allow focus on specific energy efficiency sectors: Buildings, Transport, Lighting, Appliances, Industry and District Energy. As an accelerator of this Platform, the transition to modern district energy has been prioritized as a vital sector to achieving the SEforALL energy efficiency objective.
Why the Initiative
Accelerating the uptake of energy efficiency and renewable energy in the global energy mix is the single biggest contribution to keep global temperature rise under 2 degrees Celsius (°C) and to reap the multiple benefits of an inclusive green economy. Cities account for over 70 percent of global energy use and, 40 to 50 percent of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. In several cities, heating and cooling can account for up to half of local energy consumption. Any solution for the climate and energy transition must explicitly address sustainable urban heating and cooling, as well as electricity. One of the least-cost and most efficient solutions in reducing emissions and primary energy demand is the development of modern (climate-resilient and low-carbon) district energy in cities. To facilitate this energy transition, UN Environment launched the Global District Energy in Cities Initiative at the New York Climate Summit in September 2014, as the implementing mechanism for the Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL) District Energy Accelerator.
The Global District Energy in Cities Initiative is supporting national and municipal governments in their efforts to develop, retrofit or scale up district energy systems, with backing from international and financial partners and the private sector. The Initiative is bringing together cities, academia, technology providers and financial institutions in a joint ambition to build the necessary capacity and transfer of know-how while engaging all stakeholders and reducing emissions. Twinning between cities – matching champion ones with learned ones is a key component of the Global District Energy in Cities Initiative to scale up lessons learned and best practices.
The Initiative has already signed up many cities and is continuously signing up new champion cities and learning cities that are exchanging best practice and learning through the Initiative’s activities. Furthermore, the Initiative has partnered with leading private sector actors, as well as industry associations that commit to contributing technical expertise to the Initiative’s activities. City networks such as ICLEI and C40 help the Initiative connect with cities globally and the Initiative also receives significant support from intergovernmental and government organisations such as UN-Habitat, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the Global Environment Facility (GEF).
What we do
Awareness-raising on the opportunities of district energy is crucial to raising public and investor confidence and interest, thereby lowering perceived risk, improving the bankability of projects and facilitating effective policy implementation.
The specific opportunities of district energy, and its diverse technology applications and their multiple benefits and savings, need to be showcased to cities and countries at all levels of development and in all regions. Globally, many key stakeholders are not aware of district energy and its low-carbon approach to heating and cooling and often misperceptions of district energy, such as it being only relevant for heating in very cold climates or that it will not be needed in the future due to the transition to energy efficient buildings, prevent its growth in high potential markets.
The Global District Energy in Cities Initiative is working to raise awareness on the opportunities and multiple benefits of district energy communicate best practice, and inspire cities to take control of their heating and cooling sector through district energy. The challenge is significant: new cities and districts are constantly being planned and constructed worldwide without giving full consideration to district energy and many cities with existing district energy networks are unaware of the importance and potential of the assets they already have.
The Initiative is undertaking a global awareness raising campaign to accelerate the renaissance that district energy is currently experiencing. This is being achieved through raising the profile of district energy at climate meetings such as COP21 and COP22, convening major stakeholders for policy dialogues on district energy at international and national conferences and workshops, meeting ministers and city-stakeholders, publishing case studies and guidance on district energy and delivering webinars for a variety of stakeholders. This campaign will aim to bring to the attention of decision-makers the importance of district energy in meeting multiple energy policy objectives and to join the Initiative and make political commitments to unlock investments.
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2.Light Touch Assessments and Technical Assistance
Political decision makers may not know the energy demand for heating (which can be mixed with hot water, power and cooking) or cooling from air conditioning and electric chillers (which is hidden in a building’s total electricity bill).
The Initiative will work with signed-up cities to identify the potential and benefits of district energy through a District Energy Rapid Assessment. The Initiative has developed a methodology for facilitating the development of modern district energy in cities based on input from over 45 cities, 150 interviews and the expertise of the Initiative’s partners. The rapid assessments contain analysis based on city visits, meetings with stakeholders, and follow up questionnaires. The Initiative will work with the city to form a multi-stakeholder coordination committee comprised of vital actors to district energy development such as city planners and policymakers, local utilities and local building developers. This committee will be able to provide data and information for the rapid assessments and will take on the next steps recommended by the Initiative.
Each rapid assessment will:
- Assess the current and projected impact of heating/cooling demand locally;
- Identify and begin analysis on specific district energy demonstration projects in the city;
- Analyse the long-term district energy potential and associated benefits (e.g. lower costs, CO2 and refrigerant emission reductions, jobs and electricity reduction, increase in local renewables etc.); and
- Examine local barriers to district energy and assess the local authority’s capacity to support a district energy project.
The Initiative will advise on optimal next steps for each city and provide the tools, guidance, training materials and methodologies for these cities to progress towards developing strategies, energy mapping, demonstration projects and local policies that will accelerate district energy development. Further, a workshop will be held in each pilot country that will disseminate results of the rapid assessments and invite regional, national and provincial governments, numerous other cities and national and international industry actors. These workshops will each city to champion cities and private sector partners where appropriate.
The Initiative hopes that these ‘light touch’ activities will create a critical mass of cities in each country leading to eventual national market transformation towards district energy.
3.Deep Dive District Energy Demonstrations and City-wide Plans
The Initiative will provide ‘deep-dive’ support to a limited pilot cities across geographically diverse countries through direct staffing and coordination support from the Initiative. The objective of this ‘deep-dive’ support will be to demonstrate the costs and benefits of applying a modern district energy approach in each city and to test and adapt policy best practice to each country/regional context. ‘Deep-dive’ activities will provide tailored support to each pilot city using the ten district energy action modules (defined in Section 5 of the UN Environment Flagship Report) through provision of technical assessments, capacity building, training, tools and methodologies with Initiative partners.
Deep-dive activities will include:
- Strengthening or developing a multi-stakeholder coordination framework: The Initiative will support the establishment of a ‘coordination structure’ in each city which provides a platform and focal point for collaboration, leveraging the most knowledgeable experts in the local market to help design effective strategies for the acceleration of district energy.
- Training and capacity building: As a basis of the Initiative’s approach each pilot city will be offered early training and support on the first four district energy action modules: i) incorporating district energy into a heat/cool strategy, ii) importance of multi-stakeholder coordination for development of district energy, iii) integrating district energy into local planning policy and iv) energy mapping of the city to identify long-term opportunities for district energy.
- Deep Assessment: The Initiative, together with each pilot city, will carry out a deep assessment of the city to identify the short and long-term technical and economic potential of district energy, identify potential policy options and provide further study of the barriers to district energy in the city. This deep assessment of the city will enable the selection of a high potential district energy demonstration project and form the basis of each pilot city’s district energy Plan.
- Development of a district energy demonstration project: The Initiative will plan, design and deliver to tender a high potential district energy demonstration project. Through each stage of the project development the Initiative partners will be working in coordination with the city stakeholders and will be providing appropriate capacity building, tools and training to city engineers, planners and policy-makers such as on optimal district energy design, coordination with building owners and developers, business plan options and potential policy requirements. The Initiative partners will then support the city in taking the project to tender.
- District Energy Plan and Policies: Drawing on lessons and policy requirements of the Deep Assessment of the city and the district energy demonstration project, the Initiative will work with multiple stakeholders to develop a roadmap of viable projects, policy frameworks and investments to deliver the full potential of district energy in the city over the next 10 years. This will be a district energy city-wide Plan and the Initiative will work with the city through tailored policy dialogues to ensure its adoption and integration into city planning processes.
4.Tools and training
The Initiative will also focus on collecting and disseminating best practice and project results from the ‘light touch’ and ‘deep dive’ activities of the Initiative, and will ensure that learning cities signing up to the Initiative are sufficiently supported to develop district energy, through a Virtual Platform of tools, methodologies, best practices, training webinars, publications and fundraising-matchmaking webinars. This will ensure that the Initiative’s methodology for establishing district energy in a city is scaled up and national and global replication is achieved.
The Virtual Platform will also provide a communication link between learning cities and mentor partners of the Initiative such as champion cities and private sector partners. Linking cities and partners will help strengthen the scale-up of project methods and tools and also provide a community for exchange with private sector actors. In particular, learning cities will be provided with a regionally tailored rapid assessment methodology and associated tools to enable local decision makers to evaluate the impact of heating and cooling and the potential for district energy to meet their climate, energy and development policy objectives.
The Virtual Platform will also include training and guidance for cities to implement a Monitoring, Reporting and Verification (MRV) framework that would be used to track and validate GHG emission reductions other local benefits that result from the implementation of district energy plans. This MRV framework will be developed with support from Initiative partners and validated in light touch and deep dive activities.
The Virtual Platform is currently under-development and will be launched in 2016 and populated as the Initiative undergoes light-touch and deep-dive activities.