District energy is how value is created by supplying heating and cooling collectively instead of individually and at the same time helping in reaching our climate goals. Heat (or cold) that has no – or very little – value in one place, becomes highly valuable by being transported to a place where it is needed. District energy is the system that takes care of this value creation. Heated or chilled water is used as a carrier. Put simply, district energy is about moving energy in water, with a valuable temperature, from a place of production to the place of consumption.
District energy is feasible many places where there is a concentrated need for heating or cooling, e.g. in industrial zones or densely populated areas both in larger and smaller cities. A large part of the initial investment in district energy is creating the infrastructure by laying pipes in the ground. Using high quality pre-insulated pipes ensures that this investment will last for decades and over time becomes a small part of the overall cost of operating the district energy system. Proper installation, metering and heat regulation on the consumer end leads to hassle-free use and payment, as well as a highly improved indoor climate.
This White Paper draws on competencies built up through more than 100 years of experience with district energy in Denmark and around the world. It highlights some of the main learnings to consider when wanting to expand the use of district energy, such as the system, regulatory framework, planning, efficiency and flexibility of energy source, storage and future perspectives, by including relevant cases from around the world. Since district heating is still dominant and most of the technology for district heating and cooling is the same, the term “district heating” will be used for both.