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The POWER Interview: District Energy Embraces Innovation

By District Energy posted 02-18-2024 16:49


POWER Magazine


District energy systems are evolving across the power generation sector. Downtown business districts, college and university campuses, hospitals and healthcare facilities, airports, military bases and more are utilizing these systems to create economies of scale that reduce energy costs, and promote energy efficiency.

These systems, used to provide power, hot water, heating, air conditioning and more, are growing in importance as commercial and industrial enterprises seek better reliability and resiliency for their critical operations. Innovations, enabling the use of high-efficiency equipment, are transforming technologies such as combined heat and power (CHP) and HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning).

Rob Thornton is president and CEO of the International District Energy Association (IDEA), a role he has held since 2000. IDEA was formed in 1909 as the National District Heating Association, and today represents nearly 3,000 members from 28 countries involved in design, operation, and optimization of highly-efficient district heating, district cooling, and CHP and microgrid systems in cities, communities, at business complexes, and on college campuses.

Thornton, in San Francisco, California, over the next week for IDEA’s CampusEnergy2024 conference, said the district energy sector “is experiencing an exciting period of innovation, integration and investment,” with systems serving cities, communities and campuses provide mission-critical heating and cooling services to connected customer buildings 24/7 year-round. He added, “By aggregating the heating/cooling needs of dozens or even hundreds of buildings, district energy systems create economies of scale to enable investment in highly efficient, lower-carbon technologies that may not otherwise be competitive on an individual building basis.”

Thornton provided POWER with insight into the district energy landscape ahead of the CampusEnergy2024 event.

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