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District Energy Electrification Poised to Help Decarbonize Existing and New Buildings

By District Energy posted 09-27-2022 10:27

  

Built Environment Plus

Summary

Today, buildings generate a substantial amount of the world’s annual carbon emissions – 40%, to be exact. And while historically it has been difficult and costly for existing buildings to comply with decarbonization efforts, district energy systems are rising to the challenge.

Agile, fuel-agnostic district energy systems can easily switch to lower-carbon, local energy sources at their central facilities. Because these systems deliver thermal energy to multiple buildings and millions of square feet at a time, any swap to lower-carbon fuel sources has a much wider-reaching green impact and costs existing building owners significantly less than building-by-building retrofits. Making changes or upgrades to onsite boilers or chiller plants at each building is a much more time-consuming and expensive endeavor.

In this way, the electrification of district energy systems could be a game changer for the climate, our communities, and our collective future.

In the first initiative of its kind in the United States, Vicinity Energy already has plans to electrify its district energy facilities in Boston and Cambridge. Modeled after best practices in other leading European and Canadian cities, this approach includes the installation of electric boilers, industrial-scale heat pumps, and thermal battery storage at its central facilities.

They will provide a cleaner energy product by purchasing electricity from renewable, carbon-neutral energy sources like wind, solar, and hydro. Over time, they’ll apply this approach to the rest of their districts, with Philadelphia closely following Boston and Cambridge.

Vicinity’s investments at its central facilities will lower carbon emissions and provide cleaner energy for customers throughout Boston and Cambridge, eliminating 400,000 tons of carbon annually by 2035 – more than the Empire State Building weighs in tons.

In a recent interview, Vicinity’s Chief Sustainability Officer Matt O’Malley stated, “We only have one choice—we need to be bold on climate. Vicinity is doing it.”

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