HOT|COOL NO. 1/2018 "Global District Energy Climate Awards"


By Dr. Brian Vad Mathiesen, Professor, Aalborg University

The efforts have traditionally focused on building codes and technical standards, while the initiatives reducing demands in existing buildings and on the supply side have been rather scattered and less successful. Globally, there is an increasing awareness from the buildings and energy sectors, civil servants, policy makers and in the public debate, that seeing savings, heating, cooling, electricity, transport and gas as separate parts of energy system is part of the past. Three intertwined perspectives have been identified as key for the building sector and heating moving towards a renewable energy system: Firstly, higher energy efficiency in the building stock is crucial to enable a renewable, flexible energy system, especially in existing buildings. Secondly, the operation and user‐behaviour of people in buildings is a crucial element to achieve savings over time. The third is the supply mix of energy, where buildings and district heating have an important role in opening up possibilities for a more efficient use of renewable energy and more flexible energy sources in infrastructure and thermal storages. In many cases, parallel developments are required in order to unlock the potential contribution that buildings and district heating can have in a renewable energy future.

Traditionally, renewable energy in the electricity sector has attracted most attention. This is curious, as heating and cooling account for approximately 50% of the final energy consumption in Europe and a significant part globally. Climate change, competitiveness, energy security and dependency on imports of e.g. natural gas have meant that the heating sector attracts more and more attention in Europe. Globally, the UNFCCC COP 21 Paris Agreement and the following focus on renewable energy as well as major health effects due to local emissions from burning fossil fuels or bioenergy have meant that many countries now have a major focus on district heating and energy efficiency in buildings. Cities worldwide are growing and countries not previously leading the pathway towards a sustainable energy system such as e.g. China, Turkey, Chile, India, Morocco, Malaysia and India are now paving the way together with UN Environment (formerly UNEP) to improve building standards and utilize district heating or cooling to address these challenges. Cities may house up to 85% of the global population in 2050, which means people live closer and closer and that the solutions of tomorrow require joint local and national efforts on a policy level as well as on a technological level. In renewable energy systems, sectors need to be integrated, preferably using a smart energy system approach. The understanding of the roles of the individual technologies such as buildings, energy storage and district heating is crucial if a cost efficient transition to a renewable energy system is wanted: How far should we go with savings? What is the role of flexible demand or storage at the building level? To what extent should on‐site renewable energy production be the solution? Do we need district heating in the future and, if so, how does it need to change? What is the role of bioenergy and heat pumps? How can we use low-value heat for low value purposes? What are the policies and planning methods that can facilitate this? These questions and more are at the heart of our research in the Strategic Research Centre for 4th Generation District Heating Technologies and Systems ( The results have documented that there are vast opportunities for savings and energy efficiency in Europe and the world. The research carried out has served as inspiration for Danish and European Commission initiatives on heating and cooling as well as for global initiatives taken by UN Environment.

Bygningers energimæssige ydeevne

Bygningsdrift og brugeradfærd

Nye energikilder - nye lagrings muligheder

Three perspectives key to the role of buildings in future cost-effective sustainable energy systems


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