By Robert P. Thornton, President and CEO, International District Energy Association (IDEA)
Compared to our elected officials in Washington, mayors and governors operate closer to their constituents and are often called on to mobilize resources during extreme weather events. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg believes that the trend toward cleaner, more resilient energy will continue even without meaningful support from the federal government "through strong action by local leaders, businesses, and investors, who remain committed to fulfilling the Paris Agreement." One outcome of the United States federal government’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement is a resurgence of efforts by cities and states to step up their investments in more energy-efficient and sustainable solutions.
and optimization of district heating networks. Singapore has developed progressive zoning policies to enable district cooling deployment. Dubai has deployed highly advanced district cooling metering, monitoring and customer integration protocols as well as clever water resource management strategies. Denmark offers decades of community energy planning and is leading the way in decarbonizing cities through sustainable district energy. The U.S. is emerging as a technology and policy innovator in district energy/CHP/microgrids to enhance economic and grid resiliency. Other signatory countries offer other complementary strengths. Collectively, sharing these industry best practices should facilitate and accelerate industry expansion in cities, communities and campuses. Through our continued involvement in the UNEP District Energy in Cities Initiative, IDEA is working across borders to assist developing economies with technical and business case resources to better evaluate and develop district cooling systems, with strong support from Dubai-based Empower Energy Solutions. Much of today’s global urbanization is occurring in warmer or subtropical climates where electricity grids are already strained to the maximum. Shifting the air-conditioning load from inefficient and costly standard air conditioners to aggregated district chilled water networks will benefit both the end-user and the regional economy. As evidenced by the NRG district cooling system in Phoenix (our host for IDEA2017), the deployment of large-scale ice thermal storage has substantially reduced peak electric demand while delivering highly reliable and cost-effective cooling for a fast-growing urban center.
IDEA believes that district energy systems will need to play a pivotal role in the energy future of cities and that our industry is well-positioned to support the objectives of local government leaders. This belief was recently on display at IDEA2017: “Sustaining Our Success,” our 108th Annual Conference and Trade Show in Scottsdale, Ariz. Our keynote speaker, Brian Deese, formerly senior advisor to President Obama and a lead negotiator for the U.S. in the UN Climate Agreement, offered an excellent address with an optimistic view for our industry, urging IDEA members to engage at the local level to promote investment. In addition, industry leaders from ten countries plus the European Union, converged to sign a global collaboration agreement. Citing the ongoing mission of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) District Energy in Cities Initiative, representatives from Canada, China, Colombia, Denmark, European Union/Germany, Japan, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and the United States jointly authorized a memorandum of understanding that calls for enhanced industry collaboration and coordination on efforts to educate, inform and advocate for more favorable policies with government leaders and regulatory agencies. This should happen through sharing relevant legislation, policy initiatives and industry research that supports investment in district energy for cities, communities and campuses. Another aspect of the agreement calls for sharing our members’ considerable technical strength for more open exchange and collaboration on development of industry best practice guidelines to enhance market awareness of technical, regulatory, environmental, financial, operational and efficiency best practices. For example, when considering what members from the respective countries bring to the table, Germany offers excellent and thorough technical guidelines for the construction, operation
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