What is District Energy ?


District energy systems produce steam, hot water or chilled water at a central energy centre. The steam or water is distributed in pre-insulated pipework, to individual buildings for space heating, domestic hot water and air conditioning. As a result, individual buildings served by a district energy system don't require their own boilers or chillers.

Supplies of district energy provide valuable benefits including:

 1.    Improved energy efficiency.

Aggregating a number of diverse consumer loads can allow district energy schemes to benefit from significant economies of scale. As well as improved overall efficiency from larger scale plant, a scheme’s energy base-load can be met by combined heat and power (CHP) technology, maximising the efficiency of primary fuel use.

2.    Enhanced environmental protection.

The improved energy efficiency and ability to use low carbon forms of energy generation mean that district energy can provide an environmentally friendly energy solution. Energy enters the site in the form of heated and chilled water, negating the need for fuel and refrigerants to be used on-site.

3.    Fuel flexibility.

District energy systems are fuel agnostic, meaning that its many customers can benefit from changes in the primary generation technology at the central energy centre. District energy systems can use a variety of fuels such as natural gas and biomass, adapting depending on whichever fuel is most competitive or appropriate at the time.

4.    Ease of operation and maintenance.

District energy supplies outsource the risk to the energy suppliers, delivering heat and cooling directly to consumer buildings on an output specification. Customers do not need boilers or chillers, so there is less plant to operate and maintain on site.

5.    Reliability.

District energy systems are monitored 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and have backup systems readily available. Most district energy systems operate at reliability levels above 99.99%, typically greater than the gas and electricity networks.

6.    Comfort and convenience for consumers.

Despite being generated at a central energy centre, energy supplies from the district systems are completely controllable by each individual consumer. Supplies of heat and cooling are available all year round.

7.    Reduced costs.

Because consumers of district energy services don't require boilers or chillers on site, building owners and managers face significantly reduced capital costs, operational costs and costs of plant replacement. Financial risk is diminished and the costs of parts, labour and insurance are all reduced. Energy supplies from district energy schemes are less costly than the whole life cycle costs of owning and operating energy plant on-site.

8.    Increased functional space on-site.

No boilers, chillers, gas equipment, chimneys or cooling towers on-site means substantially greater building design flexibility. This increased space on-site can result in an increased saleable area for a given plot.