HOT|COOL NO. 3/2017 - "North America"


By Niels Frederik Malskær, Commercial Advisor, Trade Council North America, Washington, D.C., USA

In the campus segment, DEA works actively with over 30 universities and colleges on developing their district energy systems. The majority of these campus partners are examining how to improve/renovate their legacy steam systems, while others are focused on extensions or new systems. The campus market segment holds potential for district energy service providers in the short and medium term, since continuous maintenance planning aims to improve facilities and lower costs as part of sustainability plans and to save O&M and energy costs.

Recent months have seen a bewildering amount of conflicting signals for the US energy markets. The expected rollback of Obama’s Clean Power Plan, the planned withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement and calls for increased coal/gas/oil extraction have caused many to wonder about the future of the energy system in the United States. However, despite high levels of uncertainty on the national political stage in the US, the US district energy market is largely insulated from national political waves. This is partly because the federal government has a limited role in state and local energy decisions. Energy planning decisions are left largely to states and cities, since the topic is highly polarized and any kind of legislation is likely to be challenged in court if it were to make it through Congress. STATUS OF US DISTRICT ENERGY District energy solutions have seen low adaptation rates in the United States compared to Europe from the 1960’s onwards, but there are still roughly 700 of them spread across the region. The vast majority of these district energy systems are steam- based, with markedly lower efficiency than low temperature hot-water systems; due to the markedly lower energy prices and different ownership structures. In recent years, as many of these systems have deteriorated beyond profitability, new solutions are being sought by various system owners, especially universities and cities. More and more owners of district energy systems (DES) in the US are considering a change from steam heating to hot water grids as a way to improve the efficiency of their systems and make way for renewable energy sources. These changes are driven by a desire for higher energy efficiency as well as by progressive climate goals of universities, colleges, and cities; where ownership structures are often favorable for the development of DES. As a result of these new sustainability priorities at state and local levels, along with other factors, the US energy technologies market is growing rapidly. As an example of this, Danish energy technology exports to the US grew 57% from 2014 (3.32 billion DKK) to 2015 (5.22 billion DKK), making it Denmark’s second largest market for Energy technologies, after Germany. District energy technologies alone represent more than 5% of the latter amount; with plenty of room for growth, as the knowledge about and demand for efficient district energy systems expand rapidly. CLEAR STRATEGIC FOCUS IS NECESSARY In order to be at the forefront of this market expansion, we at the Decentralized Energy Advisory (DEA, which is a team within the Danish Trade Council in North America) focus our activities towards campuses, selected utilities and military facilities.

Universitites from Canada and the U.S. are given a tour of the Copenhagen District Energy System by HOFOR, May 2017.

In order to disseminate knowledge about the benefits of lower temperature systems, the DEA and DBDH organises Campus Energy Accelerator Academies twice a year in Denmark. The first group of innovative institutions, each of which is in some stage of district energy planning, came to Copenhagen, Denmark in May of this year, where they gained insight into state of the art technologies and how hot water district energy systems operate on a day-to-day and year-to-year basis.


With established utilities, we focus our energy on presenting technology packages that can help optimise their systems in the short as well as long term. Some utilities are already operating hot water infrastructure and request guidance on optimisation of Delta T throughout their systems. Among other things, we suggest upgrades to Energy Transfer Stations, plant and distribution optimization, SCADA integration and water treatment. In certain cases, we are asked to give input or help connect stakeholders to companies that are experienced with integration of biomass, heat recovery and low temp hot water to replace coal/oil driven legacy steam systems.


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