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Summary of the first District Energy Climate Summit

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The first District Energy Climate Summit took on the 3rd of November, supported by the municipality of Copenhagen and listed as an official side-event to the Conference of the Parties. It was the first global event organised jointly between Euroheat & Power, the International District Energy Association, Dansk Fjernvarme and the Danish Board of District Heating, with support from the municipality of Copenhagen. At the summit the first District Energy Climate Awards were announced and the prospects of district energy were discussed.

The obligations on municipalities and cities around the world to lower their CO2 and to increase their energy efficiency while still maintaining reliability are increasingly pressing; however, district energy is proving to be a solution to this thorny dilemma. District energy can play a key role in building smart, self-sustainable cities. Urban areas are home to the majority of the world’s citizens, meaning that the fight against climate change will be either won or lost in cities.

The summit provided an introduction to the principles and benefits of district energy. It brought together government representatives, policy leaders and environmentalists and invited them to experience first-hand how district energy can deliver higher efficiency, greater fuel flexibility and more sustainability.

Key-note speaker Richard Jones of the IEA spoke about recent IEA work on District Energy, dedicated to analyzing the prospects for CHP and district energy. 

‘’The very important point [is that] that two thirds of the fuel we use to generate power globally is wasted—simply vented out of the window as waste heat. We can do better. This is exactly the sort of change that must take place if we are to achieve our climate and energy goals. We need to address this energy waste by dramatically increasing our energy supply efficiency through CHP, and integrating it with efficient energy delivery technologies such as district heating.’’

Environmental Editor of the Guardian Newspaper, John Vidal, moderated the panel debate. Speakers representing the USA (Juan M. Ontiveros, Executive Director of Energy Services, University of Texas, Austin) Japan (Ambassador Seiichi Kondo, Japanese Ambassador to Denmark) the EU Commission (Ms Eva Hoos, DG TREN), Greenpeace (Doug Parr, UK) plus an MEP from Italy (Prof. Vittorio Prodi) discussed their vision of the energy future and of how district energy can be used as a means of achieving the climate targets soon to be considered at the COP15 in Copenhagen. The diversity of the participants reflects the flexibility of district energy technology and of how, far from being a technology of the past limited to certain European or Scandinavian countries, it has potential for the future and must play a key role in driving the transformation of the energy system.

The value session consisted of three presentations. Firstly, from the municipality of Herten in Germany: despite its problem with population decline and pollution, various local organisations came together to persue a bold plan to develop the municipality using district energy as the backbone of its sustainability. Greater Nancy in France was next, presenting its commitment to district energy as its vision for the future of the area and its quest for efficiency, savings and performance. Finally, we heard again about the diversity of the technology, from one of the biggest names in the business, GDF Suez, and their early involvement in sustainable district energy for new eco-districts in towns as diverse as Lisbon, Barcelona, and London. In all presentations, the message was clear, the involvement of local authorities and municipal planning are key for success.

It was also the occasion to announce the first District Energy Climate Awards to city pioneers driving innovative district heating and cooling concepts.

 “These communities are showing the world the path forward on climate change: low-carbon, energy efficient district energy systems are win/win/win solutions for the environment, energy security and local economic growth. We hope that other cities look to these models as examples”, said Richard Jones, Deputy Director of the IEA in his keynote speech.

With entrants from 11 different countries  the judging panel, under the auspices of the IEA, conceded that it had proved to be a difficult choice, but 6 of the entrants were awarded with special mention for their outstanding contribution to district energy. The Awards were presented at a special ceremony by Lena Sommestad, former Swedish Environment Minister. The winners:

  • The University of Austin Texas. A full-service campus utility, with 200 university buildings that are connected through a district energy system with all utilities centrally generated on campus.
  • Boräs, in Sweden. A municipally owned company that handles refuse and production of district heating, cooling and electricity in the municipality. 35.000 of the city’s 64.000 inhabitants rely on its district heating system, which receives it energy from a CHP plant using biomass, waste and landfill gas.
  • The Municipality of Copenhagen, where the district heating network system covers 98 % of the heat demand in the municipality with heat from CHP plants and waste incineration. The system is part of a coherent district heating system in greater metropolitan area, covering city centre and 15 suburban municipalities.
  • Dunkirk in France. The district heating network covers a large portion of the urban community. The network was initially designed to recover surplus energy from the local steel works. The heating network is an essential component of the region’s environmental policy, and enables the community to maintain and enhance the region’s reputation as a leading industrial area.
  • Jiamusi, Heilongjiang, in China. Here the pipeline network is forecasted to continue its growth until 2020, and at that time it will supply a total surface of 14.5 million m² which represents 75% of the current heating surface of the city, comparing with current 40%.
  • Krakow, Poland, where social and economic transformation has strongly influenced local heat distributors. It gave the opportunity for application of advanced technologies, with the goals of improving networks and minimizing emissions. To ensure this, the company modernized heat distribution system and eliminated inefficient heat sources.

The representative organizations of the district energy sector joined forces in leading the way to Copenhagen with this pioneering summit. They also produced their joint recommendations to include district energy in the future Global Climate Agreement Post 2012.

Later in the evening, the European Energy Forum together with Euroheat & Power hosted a reception with Britta Thomsen, MEP.  Here again the role of District Energy was discussed in terms of legislations and competing technologies. Participants also watched a documentary film ‘District Energy’ produced by Kontinent Film & TV. It made some strong arguments in favour of district energy, and was a visual way to sum up many of the discussion heard earlier in the day.

The representative organisations of district heating and cooling in more than 40 countries across the World met in Copenhagen on 3 November 2009. There were five specific points they called upon the Conference of the Parties:

  • Take notice to heating and cooling markets, including monitoring and statistics to provide a complete picture, thereby enabling policy makers to make informed decisions.
  • Integrate urban functions, promoting action in urban areas thereby having a larger impact in terms on climate protection. By promoting systematic heating and cooling infrastructure in planning urban areas.
  • Acknowledge that district heating and cooling can play an important factor in fighting climate change and therefore it deserves investment in financing and upgrading of networks.
  • To promote the integration of supply side and demand side policies, by focusing on system efficiency in terms of primary energy rather than on final energy use.
  • To provide a long-term framework for benchmarking and transfer of best knowledge / legislative practice in district heating and cooling.

The full Recommendations document can be found on 

Information on winners, and the summit programme and presentations, please go to the website :