Global District Energy Initiative brings 62 cities closer to a low-carbon reality

The Global District Energy Initiative showed great results in 2017, supporting 62 cities worldwide in exploring policies, technologies and actions to roll our modern district energy, drastically reducing energy demand and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, while improving quality of life.

One of the successful Accelerators launched in 2014, the Global District Energy Initiative is led by UN Environment. ICLEI is developing support for local governments to help informed decision-making and improving policies that enable and support the implementation of district energy. The aim is to enhance the understanding of the potential of district energy, as a key energy saving opportunity for the building sector, with the possibility to switch to clean, sustainable fuels when using heating and cooling services through a centralized network (potentially also generation electricity). This means moving away from individual devices per building or apartment, towards simplifying the operation of the system and achieving economies of scale.

So far 62 cities in 34 countries have benefited and participated in this initiative, which offers capacity development opportunities to local governments with their efforts to develop, retrofit or scale up district energy systems. The initiative not only acts as a multi-stakeholder platform that facilitates capacity building and technical assistance to national and local governments and their partners, but also offers guidance on how to develop enabling policies, address barriers, unlock investment and scale-up modern district energy in cities.

“Modern district energy is going to be a key driver of the low-carbon, climate-resilient transition in cities and towns around the globe. Yet, there is much work to be done in terms of knowledge-sharing and capacity building among local governments and their partners.”, said Gino Van Begin, Secretary General of ICLEI.

Some exciting results seen to date:

  • €17.8 million energy efficiency and renewable investments were made in Banja Luka in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This was leveraged by the Global District Energy Initiative with a €8.4 million loan from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) to revamp the energy architecture by developing a renewable energy plant and establishing a district heating company, providing 49 MW of energy to over 200,000 homes.
  • Collaboration with the Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL) and GEF in India, supported the pilot city of Thane, with India’s first district cooling project in an existing city. This will be used to expand to other cities such as Rajkot and Pune, by creating a pipeline of district cooling investments, as part of a US$454 million package of opportunities identified for the next decade.
  • Key partnerships were established through the Twinning Cities Program. Districlima, the operator of the 15 KM district energy infrastructure in Barcelona, Spain over the last 10 years, opened the door to the Municipality of Temuco in Chile, with knowledge and experiences shared on the advantages of technology to achieve energy saving.
  • The Copenhagen Center for Energy Efficiency is supporting the efforts of the City of Astrakhan in Russia to optimize buildings and district energy systems.
  • The collaboration between UN Environment and the China Energy Conservation and Environmental Protection Group (CECEP) will help to tackle air pollution in cities through modern district energy, reducing toxic emissions from outdated technologies.

To support this, ICLEI offers guidance in the Solutions Gateway through district heating and cooling solutions packages, with case studies and planning tools for cities. Available to the cities participating of this initiative, all solutions packages are available online, registration is free.

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