District Energy – the Smart Route to Urban Efficiency

Editorial Team
Editorial Team
District Energy – the Smart Route to Urban Efficiency

Every day, more than half of the energy used for generating electricity vanishes into the air. This colossal energy waste has spurred the development of district heating and cooling systems that can utilise surplus energy to heat or cool people’s homes and to supply domestic hot water. In Scandinavia, district energy systems that utilise surplus heat from power plants, waste incineration plants, excess heat from industry and other available sources have been widely used for decades to increase energy efficiency and bring down overall energy consumption.

And now the next generation district energy systems are emerging as an attractive solution not only in northern climates, but also in milder regions where the demand for cooling is growing as people seek improved indoor comfort. 

Danfoss and other Scandinavian frontrunners will unveil new concepts and new technology for next generation district energy solutions at the Nordic Efficiency event in Paris, from October 13 to 15. The event is part of the World Efficiency Conference warming up to COP21 in December. 

“Today, about 13 percent of the heat demand in Europe is covered by district energy. When we consider that about three-quarters of the European population lives in dense urban areas ideally suited for district heating and cooling, the potential of increasing the use of it is huge. That is why we promote district energy as one of the most effective paths to live up to the energy efficiency target set up by EU Commission in the 2050 Energy Strategy,” said Jan Eric Thorsen, who represents the Danfoss Heating Segment Application Centre.


One of the barriers to expanding district energy systems is the assumption that it is an expensive solution. Calculations have shown, however, that compared to traditional boiler solutions the price of the initial investment cost per consumer is highly competitive. Seen over the entire life cycle, the Scandinavian experiences show that district energy by far outperforms boilers, electric heating and other solutions in urban areas.

A lot of new opportunities for even higher district energy performance are emerging in next generation solution, with the potential of two-way systems looking very promising.

“This means that industries, supermarkets and other major energy consumers in the local communities become part of the solution,” said Thorsen. “They can pull out energy when they need it and then retrieve excess energy from their processes when available, creating an attractive win-win for utilities and private partners.”

He summarised: “At the same time we are developing smart control technologies that take into account weather forecasts and consumer behaviour in order to get the most out of the available energy at any time. The future smart energy system is about flexibility across the energy carriers. Only when we master the inter-connection of the energy systems will we be able to harvest the synergies.”

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