Award-winning district energy systems scaling up renewable heating and cooling

Meet the district energy systems changing the game of renewable heating and cooling

Growing the share of renewables in heating and cooling is a huge challenge, as REN21’s data has shown. District energy is expected to play a pivotal role in helping buildings and industry meet their thermal demands efficiently, affordably, and cleanly. The award-winning projects highlighted here show that, in some places, the heating and cooling transition is well underway. Details about the awards can be found below.

District cooling for a government complex in Bangkok, Thailand

By 2030, Thailand aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20%. To meet this goal, DAD (Dhanarak Asset Development Co., Ltd.) aims for the development and management of a government complex to be renewable and sustainable. This 900,000 square meter complex is designed to minimise energy demand and has a district cooling system with 14,000m³ chilled water storage, charged at night, which reduces electricity demand by around 107,305 MWh and CO2 emissions by nearly 47,000 tons. A special feature of the district cooling system is a cooling pond one kilometre in circumference which reduces condenser water temperature by evaporation, increasing the chiller efficiency accordingly.

World’s largest next-generation low-temperature district heating in Lund, Sweden

2009 was a very important year for the city of Lund. Two large new research facilities were confirmed and would form the core of a new city district called Brunnshög. Set to be a leading example of sustainable city development with very high standards of insulation, heating is nevertheless still required during the cold months, and there is a year-round need for hot tap water. Consequently, the world’s largest next-generation low temperature district heating was inaugurated in autumn 2019, using residual heat from the research facilities. Innovative technical solutions also include special new pipes requiring far fewer joints, leading to a significant reduction in cost.

Residual heat and waste to energy for a hospital and an industrial zone in South Tyrol, Italy

Alperia Ecoplus, owner of the district heating system in Bolzano, began a modernisation programme from 2013. Now with heat sources that include biomass (60% of which is local), residual heat from industrial processes and Bolzano’s waste-to-energy plant, this resulted in the expanded heating plant having 5.600m³ buffer storage and a new, high efficiency pump system supplying the existing city, hospital and industrial zone. The network continues to expand; currently, 262 apartment blocks are connected in the city, and another 250 will be connected by 2025. When the investment plan for Bolzano is completed, the annual reduction of CO2 emissions will be approximately 15,000 tonnes.

Massive expansion for research and education in Doha, Qatar

Established in 1995 as a non-profit organisation, The Qatar Foundation began with primary education, and has since expanded so that Qatar’s Education City now comprises a 12km² complex with universities and research facilities, as well as both primary and secondary schools. The first district cooling plant was commissioned in 2003 and was followed over the next ten years with 5 more district cooling plants growing from an initial capacity of just under 40MW to more than 500MW. Along with the expansion of the system, the performance of the internals of older buildings have been improved. The latest expansion at the complex is the Education City World Cup Stadium, served by state-of-the-art equipment and completed in September 2020.

Delivering renewable heat and cold to 2,200 homes in Richmond, Canada

First established in 2012, the Alexandra District Energy Utility (ADEU) in the city of Richmond, British Columbia is a low-carbon district energy system that uses energy from underground to heat and cool buildings, as well as pre-heat domestic hot water. ADEU comprises an ambient temperature system that draws heat from more than 700 closed-loop boreholes, connects to more than 2,200 dwellings and more than 2.3 million square feet of floor space, using heat pumps in the buildings to elevate the temperature for heating or reject heat for cooling.

Global District Energy Climate Awards 2021: Winners

Each of the examples above won an award at the most recent Global District Energy Climate Awards, in November 2021 in Bangkok. This event was hosted by the Asian Pacific Urban Energy Association (APUEA) with the support of Euroheat & Power, a REN21 member. As well as announcing the award winners listed above, the assessment panel reported that the standard of submission was the highest ever. Full details and the names of runner-up projects can be found on the GDECA website.

Photo credits: GDECA