Indian Cities Assess Potential for District Energy

ICLEI South Asia, in collaboration with United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), has initiated a project to help Indian cities accelerate their transition to low-carbon and climate-resilient development through modern District Energy Systems (DES). Entitled “Renewable Energy Efficiency in Buildings & Cities: Assessing Potential for District Energy Systems (DES) in Indian Cities”, the project aims to provide technical assistance and capacity building activities to local governments and stakeholders in India to develop a replicable modern district energy approach, particularly for district cooling, that can be further scaled up across the country.

What are District Energy Systems?

District energy systems centralize the production of heating or cooling for a neighborhood or community. Most district energy systems generate heat at a central plant, or extract heat from other sources. The heat is transferred to a fluid and distributed via underground pipes to buildings where it is used for space and water heating. The fluid is then returned to the source to be reheated and recirculated. Some systems also provide space cooling in a similar way.

The definition of DES is currently expanding to reflect a more holistic energy approach. DES may now also refer to the matching of local production to local use through coordinated urban planning at the neighborhood and city level. DES also involves the sharing of energy between buildings and the development of resource efficient neighborhoods and resilient cities.

Five Cities Undergo Rapid Assessments

To kick off the project, five cities in India were selected for rapid assessments to understand their potential for implementing district cooling initiatives, with a view to developing a bankable pilot district energy project proposal. The assessments were conducted between November 2015 and January 2016 in Pune, Rajkot, Coimbatore, Thane, and Bhopal.

For the assessments, a technical team comprising experts from Empower (Dubai), Danfoss India, UNEP, ICLEI South Asia, and KfW visited the cities. The exercise involved interactions with city departments and other key stakeholders to gather information to assess the potential, opportunities and barriers for the deployment of district cooling systems in these cities. Potential sites for the implementation of district cooling system were also identified during the assessment visits.

The results of the assessment will be presented in a project inception workshop that will engage key stakeholders in technical discussions on DES. The workshop is scheduled to be held in Rajkot in March 2016.

Based on the results of the rapid assessments, further detailed assessments will be undertaken in one selected city to develop a pilot scale DES cooling project proposal. The rapid assessments will also feed into further discussions with the Government of India to develop a replicable approach that can be scaled up in other cities. 

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