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District Heating and Cooling

For policy makers

The Technology / For policy makers

For policy makers


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 energy efficiency and expanding use of renewable energy are generally recognised 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.


Of particular importance is the recovery, through Combined Heat and Power (CHP), of the heat that is usually wasted in generation of electricity. Electrical demand continues to grow world-wide and the ability of gas networks to deliver clean burning fuel to the urban centres, where the power is required, will drive local power generation. 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.

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 biomass 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 utilise:

  • 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 harvested biomass or cooling from oceans, lakes or rivers;
  • combined heat and power (CHP) or cogeneration should always be considered, especially if fossil fuel is to be used;
  • if all of the above have been explored, then efficient use of fossil fuel 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.

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