District Energy Systems

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District Energy Infrastructure – A Hot Topic

District energy systems (DES) centralize the production of heating or cooling for a neighbourhood or community. District steam heating plants in North America go back over a century; now, district systems are one of the potential solutions to our energy and emissions challenges.

Vancouver's Neighbourhood Energy Utility: Sewage Heat Recovery to produce heating for Southeast False Creek. / City of Vancouver.Most district energy systems generate heat at a central plant, or extract heat from other sources. The heat is transferred to a fluid and distributed via underground pipes to buildings where it is used for space and water heating. The fluid is then returned to the source to be reheated and recirculated. Some systems also provide space cooling in a similar way. They may deliver energy services with greater efficiencies and lower emissions than individual furnaces, boilers, electric baseboards, and water heaters fuelled by oil, natural gas, propane, or electricity.

British Columbia is a district energy leader in North America.

Community Examples

Other notable systems in BC include Lower Lonsdale (gas), Surrey Centre (geothermal), Revelstoke (biomass), Richmond Alexandra (geothermal), Kamloops Sun Rivers (individual geothermal), and River District (gas and waste heat).

Complementary Measures

  • Land use planning that encourages compact, complete communities.
  • A Community Energy Plan to develop strategies for energy infrastructure within a broader energy and emissions plan. The CEA created a Community Energy and Emissions Planning guide which describes the purpose and content of a community energy and emissions plan, its benefits, and how to go about creating one.
  • Resource Management Plans and Integrated Resource Recovery, encourage energy inputs from several sources (such as refrigeration-heat from an ice-rink, sewer heat, biomass, etc) providing more opportunities for carbon-neutral energy.  
 [Use the tab above to learn HOW to reduce emissions with this tool.]