Unlocking the potential of energy efficiency and renewable energy

Our work

We raise awareness and provide tailored policy advice and technical assistance to help cities and governments boost the development of modern district energy systems.


Awareness Raising

The 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.


Technical Assistance

The District Energy in Cities Initiative provides technical assistance to cities through  The Initiative works with signed-up cities to identify the potential and benefits of district energy through district energy assessments. Based on input from over 45 cities and the expertise of the Initiative’s partners the Initiative has developed its own methodology to assess a cities potential to implement district energy.

This methodology consists in undertaking two types of assessments, a district energy rapid assessment and a district energy deep dive assessment. The analysis are based on city visits, meetings with stakeholders, and follow up questionnaires.

The district energy rapid assessment will:

  • assess current and projected impact of heating/cooling demand locally
  • identify of potential 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 district energy deep dive assessment will:

  • 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
  • enable the selection of a high potential district energy demonstration project and form the basis of a city’s district energy Plan.

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.

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.

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.

The Initiative works 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.

All cities will be recommended on next steps in district energy development as well as receive capacity building, workshop invitations, access to a Virtual Platform of training materials and tools, city twinning with global champion cities and DES Initiative partners and access to fundraising webinars with project partners and international development banks.


Deep dive

The DES Initiative will provide deep dive support to at least one city in each country (additional cities conditional on co-finance) to demonstrate the costs, benefits and business models of district energy and to ground-truth and adapt policy best practice to each country. This will involve creation of a multi-stakeholder coordination group, a city-wide deep assessment, tendering of a district energy demonstration project, development of a city plan for district energy and capacity building of local government and stakeholders.

Monitoring, Reporting and Verification (MRV): The DES Initiative will support the deep dive cities to implement MRV framework provisions to track and validate GHG emission reductions and other local benefits result from the implementation of district energy plans and projects.

  • The DES Initiative will ensure project results from the deep-dive city, including methodologies, tools, guidance documents and training materials, are made available to all cities that sign up to the DES Initiative through a Virtual Platform. The DES Initiative will also undertake significant outreach in each country and globally to recruit new ‘learning cities’ and raise the profile of district energy.

This will demonstrate the technical application of district energy as well as relevant business models and policy environments that can be scaled up in each country. This assistance is also supported by the partners of the Initiative.

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