Enter your username and password here in order to log in on the website
District Heating and Cooling

Annex III Project 01

The Research / IEA DHC Annexes / 1990-1993 / Annex III / Annex III Project 01

The environmental benefits of District Heating and Cooling

Project Downloads and Links


This report examines the environmental benefits of district heating and cooling, and is one of several summary reports on particularly relevant topics. This report has been prepared on behalf of the IEA for information and education exchange.

District heating and cooling is the distribution of heating (hot water, steam) and cooling (cold water) energy transfer mediums from a central energy production source, to meet the diverse thermal energy needs of residential, commercial and industrial users. Thermal energy needs or demands include space heating and cooling systems for maintaining human comfort, domestic hot water requirements, manufacturing plant process heating and cooling system requirements, etc. In many of the systems that have been established around the world, both district heating and district cooling have not been provided. For example in Europe, where moderate summer temperatures prevail, most district thermal energy systems provide heating capability only. District cooling has only recently become more widespread, with the most prevalent application being in North America, where summer temperatures can, over extended periods, reach extremes of 30° C to 40° C.

There are a number of factors which must be weighed when determining whether or not a district heating (DH) or district heating and cooling (DHC) system should be implemented in a particular community. These factors include local economic and climatic conditions, viability of competing alternative energy supply systems, local energy production and utilization efficiency considerations, local environmental benefits, and differing producer and user perspectives on the significance of benefits of district systems.

The subject of this report, environmental benefits of DHC, must be considered pre-eminent on the list of district energy system assessment factors, considering the industrialized countries increasing emphasis on reducing and avoiding the negative impacts that various human activities, including technological developments have had, and continue to have, on the global environment.

Structure of the Report

Following the introduction, the report is broken down into the following major sections:

Section 2
This section discusses the environmental impacts that are associated with the various heating and cooling systems in use today. Impacts discussed include global climate change, ozone depletion and low level environmental impacts such as acid rain and local air quality.

Section 3 This section examines specific aspects of district heating and cooling systems, outlining the components associated with these operations and the environmental benefits that can result when such systems are adopted.    

Section 4
This section illustrates, through 8 actual case studies, the environmental benefits which are experienced through the use of district heating and cooling systems. The benefits discussed in this report relate primarily to the environmental impacts identified in Section 2.0.

An example of one of the case studies is available.