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District Heating and Cooling Explained:

District Heating and Cooling plays a significant role in the supply of low-carbon heating and cooling in Europe. While having an average market share of 10 percent in Europe, it is particularly widespread in North, Central and Eastern Europe, where market shares often reach 50 percent and more. On average, over 80 per cent of heat supplied by district heating originates from renewable energy sources or heat recovery (i.e. from electricity production or industrial processes).

An international study co-financed by the European Commission confirms the possibility of saving an extra 400 million tons of CO2 yearly (corresponding to 9.3% CO2 reduction – thus more than the whole Kyoto target!) with more District Heating and Cooling across 32 European countries. Creating conditions for the expansion of District Heating and Cooling schemes will thus secure a more sustainable energy system and a brighter energy future.


Frequently Asked Questions 
(in pdf format)

Documentary Film on District Energy:


Here you will find the answers to the 10 most frequently asked questions about District Heating and Cooling.

What is district heating?

District heating is a convenient way to heating space and tap water.
In many processes, for example when electricity is generated or waste is burned, large parts of the energy are set free in the form of surplus heat.

The fundamental idea behind modern district heating is to recycle this surplus heat which otherwise would be wasted- from electricity production, from fuel and biofuel-refining, and from different industrial processes. Furthermore, district heating can make use of the many kinds of renewables (biomass, geothermal, solar thermal).

How does district heating heat my house and my tap water?

The recycled heat is used to heat water which is transported to the customer via a well-insulated network of pipes. District heating can serve residential. public and commercial buildings as well as meeting industrial demands for low-temperature heat.

A heat exchanger serves as an interface between the district heating network and the building's own radiator and hot water system. There's no boiler, no burning flame needed in the house and maintenance is taken care of by professionals.

Why should the European Union care about a local business like district heating?

The EU has set targets to reduce energy consumption by 20% and to reduce CO2 emissions by at least 20% (possibly 30%) by 2020.

Though a  local business, district heating can greatly contribute to achieving global policy objectives. Doubling sales of district heating by 2020 will reduce Europe's:

  • Primary energy supply by 2.6% or 50.7 Mtoe/year
  • Import dependency by 105.4 Mtoe/year
  • Carbon dioxide emissions by 9.3% or 404 Mtoe/year

How can we compare district heating with other heating options?

Heating systems can be compared in terms of their contribution to reducing the use of fossil energy. Only an assessment encompassing the whole energy cycle -from conversion to delivery (thus including transportation losses) - will give a realistic picture. An approach based on primary resource factors (PRF) makes it possible to compare heating systems. Primary resource factors measure the combined effect of efficiency and the use of renewables and surplus heat resources. The lower the PRF of a technology, the greater its contribution to reducing the use of fossil fuel.

How much does it cost?

An international study has shown that district heating prices are, on average, lower than natural gas prices. However, prices vary from one system to another, due to local circumstances and in respect of locally available resources.


Can Customers efficiently control the indoor temperature of their home?

Yes, just as you can with any other heating system. In modern district heating systems, several possibilities exist for regulating the temperature of each room, for example, with thermostatic radiator valves. Furthermore, modern heat meters or allocators ensure that every customer pays only for his or her consumption.

If district heating is so smart, why isn't it more widespread?

Today's liberalized markets are focused on short-term return on capital. Therefore, investors do not necessarily consider long-term commitments such as district heating as attractive options. Utilities will only take the right strategic and technological decisions when society sends clear signals.

Energy infrastructure planning must be driven by the objective of climate protection. Furthermore, to ensure an adequate return on investment in the district heating infrastructure, legislation must provide for fair allocation of the economic value of the benefits to all parties including to the investor and operator. These benefits- including avoiding energy imports, price stability and environmental savings - are indeed huge for the local community and the national economy as a whole.

What is district cooling?

District cooling is a sustainable alternative to conventional electricity or gas-driven air conditioning systems. As with district heating, the main idea is to use local resources that otherwise would be wasted or difficult to use. The strategic resources are:

  • natural cooling from deep sea, lakes and rivers
  • conversion of surplus heat from industry , Combined Heat and Power and waste incineration.

How can district cooling contribute to a sustainable energy future?

Due to the use of resources that otherwise would be wasted or difficult to use, district cooling systems reach efficiencies that are between 5 and 10 times higher than with traditional electricity-driven equipment. They can greatly contribute to avoiding electricity peak loads during summer which are increasingly occurring due to cooling demands in all European regions, in particular in Southern Europe. As a consequence, the need for investments in new power generation and network capacities as well as greenhouse gas emissions from power production, can be significantly reduced.

Where do we go next?

Future generations depend on our ability not to exhaust resources ad to create the technological basis for covering their demands for comfort – without global warming.

Experience from more than 5,000 European cities shows that it’s not a utopia. We can make it happen. Expanding District Heating and Cooling will help to save significant amounts of primary energy and reduce emissions. It hits all cylinders of modern energy policy. It’s clean, comfortable and reliable. It’s mature and future-proof. In other words: just common sense.
Say yes to district heating and district cooling!