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The Power of District Energy

The Power of District Energy

District energy systems are networks of underground insulated pipes that pump hot or cold water to multiple buildings in a district, neighbourhood or city. Such systems create synergies between the production and supply of heating, cooling, domestic hot water and electricity, and can be integrated with municipal systems such as power, sanitation, sewage treatment, transport and waste. This enables integrated energy grids that fuel low-carbon, energy efficient heating and cooling, and maximize local renewable resources.

District energy systems are increasingly climate resilient and low-carbon, allowing:

  • up to 50 per cent less primary energy consumption for heating and cooling;
  • the recovery and distribution of surplus and low-grade heat and cold to end-users (e.g. waste heat from industry, power stations, waste incinerators and sewage treatment or cooling from water bodies and even LNG terminals);
  • the storage of large amounts of energy at low cost – for example, solar heat for use during winter or conversion of surplus renewable power into heating or cooling for use during peak thermal demand;
  • the integration and balancing of large shares of variable renewable power on electricity grids through thermal storage, cogeneration and heat pumps;
  • a fast and cost-effective transition to sustainable refrigerants compliant with the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol.

These benefits make district energy a key measure for cities/countries that aim to achieve 100% renewable energy or carbon neutral targets. Compared with competitive technologies, district energy is frequently more cost effective – by up to 50 per cent – than individual buildings producing their own heating or cooling when there is sufficient energy demand density in a neighbourhood.

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