About District Energy

District energy (DE) systems centralize the production of thermal heating or cooling for multiple buildings located within a district, neighborhood, or campus.

How District Energy Works

District Energy Infogram
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Centralized thermal plants can efficiently produce hot water, chilled water, and steam from a variety of energy sources, including renewable sources. From these centralized plants, hot and/or chilled water (or steam) is transported through an underground system of insulated pipes to individual buildings, where it’s used for space heating and cooling, and domestic hot water heating.

District Energy for Low-Carbon Cities (IDEA)

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District energy systems are highly flexible and scalable. And they provide significant environmental and economic benefits compared to conventional HVAC systems.

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Environmental Benefits of District Energy

GHG Reductions
GHG Emissions Reductions
District energy systems can produce rapid and significant reductions in carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and sulphur dioxide emissions.

Optimized Efficiency
Optimized Energy Efficiency
District energy systems can adopt new sustainable energy technologies – usually faster and at lower cost than individual buildings could.

Optimized Usage
Optimized Energy Usage
District energy distributes energy supply and demand among many users, which results in more efficient use of scare energy resources.

District Energy Economic Benefits

Economic Benefits of District Energy

Lower Costs  Bldgs
Lower Heating & Cooling Costs
District energy systems can lower input energy costs through greater efficiencies, off-peak pricing, and protection against price and supply fluctuations.

Lower Maintenance
Lower Maintenance Costs
District energy systems greatly reduce the cost of on-site HVAC maintenance. They also lower staffing, regulatory, and safety related costs.

District energy plants and infrastructure have comprehensive built-in contingency and redundancy, guaranteeing enhanced reliability.

Comfort Thermostat
User Comfort & Convenience
The reliability and consistency of district heating and cooling translates directly to greater comfort and convenience for building users.

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Energy Sources

Natural Gas
Natural gas is a far cleaner energy source than coal or oil. High-efficiency control systems ensure optimal combustion and energy transfer, and far less CO2 and toxic emissions.

Electrical Grid
Grid Electricity
Grid electricity takes advantage of centralized production and distribution, and off-peak supply and cost — efficiencies not typically available to individual property owners.

GeoExchange systems draw energy from natural thermal sinks — underground or large bodies of water — and is one of the cleanest, most energy-efficient technologies available.

Biomass systems use energy from renewable organic matter, once considered waste. Forestry, construction, and agricultural waste are now viable energy sources.

Biogas systems use methane gas from decomposing garbage and manure, once lost to the atmosphere. It can fuel district energy systems or be sold as renewable natural gas (RNG).

Waste Heat
Waste Heat Recovery
Practically any large and reliable source of waste heat can be used by a district energy system. This includes sewage heat recovery, and heat from industrial processes.

Further Resources

These organizations are an excellent source for the latest in district energy news, information, and best practices from around the world.