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District Heating and Cooling

More about IEA DHC

The Programme / More about IEA DHC
Connection to the IEA

The Technology Collaboration Programme on District Heating and Cooling (IEA DHC), functions within a Framework created by the International Energy Agency (IEA). Views, findings and publications of the IEA DHC do not necessarily represent the views or policies of the IEA Secretariat or of its individual Member countries.


One of the major aims of IEA has been, and still is, to reduce the vulnerability of member countries to the interruption of imported energy supplies, particularly their dependence on oil. Recent history has shown that large-scale disturbances of the supply of energy could be created by international political conflicts.

Other goals have assumed increasing importance in recent years, particularly reducing the environmental impacts of energy use and promoting sustainable development. Of special importance is the need to reduce emissions of Greenhouse Gases (GHG) that contribute to climate change.

Increasing end-use efficiency and expanding use of renewable energy are generally recognized as key requirements for reducing GHG, promoting sustainable development and reducing vulnerability to supply disruptions. Often overlooked is the critical role that District Heating and Cooling (DHC) can play in meeting these goals by reducing fossil fuel consumption by facilitating productive use of waste heat and renewable energy sources that are otherwise lost to the energy system, such as geothermal energy.


Of particular importance is the recovery of heat that is usually wasted in generation of electricity, through Combined Heat and Power (CHP). Because of the enormous and rapidly growing role that electricity plays in meeting world energy needs, CHP is a critical element in an effective effort to reduce GHG emissions.

Sustainably sourced biomass fuels, used in different types of energy plants, will have to play a major role in any renewable energy future. DHC systems in several countries are already supplying urban centres with heat from waste burning CHP plants. The DHC networks are essential to delivering thermal energy to urban centres.

GHG reduction

In general terms, communities concerned about GHG reduction should first adopt policies for the reducing end-use energy requirements. Having done this, the community should be considered as a system and should seek to utilize:

  • waste heat from industrial and municipal operation;
  • waste renewable materials such as landfill gas, wood or agricultural wastes or municipal wastes;
  • new renewable energy such as deep geothermal or solarthermal heat or cooling from oceans, lakes or rivers;
  • combined heat and power (CHP) or cogeneration should always be considered, whenever fuels are used for electricity generation;
  • if all of the above have been explored, then storage and load balancing must be considered.

DHC has proven to be a major contributor to GHG reduction in many member countries, and recognition of DHC's importance is growing. In fact, many countries where it is established are renewing their commitment to DHC as they find new ways to use the technology to reduce environmental impacts. DHC facilitates linkages between supplies that are environmentally desirable and end users that could not otherwise make use of those energy sources.