Tackling the energy transition is only possible with the active role of cities: Asian launch of the DistrictEnergy in Cities Initiative and Flagship Report at ICLEI World Congress 2015

Today, at the ICLEI World Congress in Seoul, Republic of Korea, the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) in partnership with ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI), and supported by high-level city representatives and partners, facilitated the Asia launch of the Global District Energy in Cities Initiative and its Flagship Publication “District Energy in Cites: Unlocking the Potential for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy” produced by UNEP in collaboration with Copenhagen Centre of Energy Efficiency, ICLEI and UN-Habitat.

Facilitator of the session, Arab Hoballah, Chief Sustainable Lifestyles, Cities and Industry, from UNEP, put the launch in the bigger picture and emphasized that "While preparing for the Post-2015 Development Agenda, COP21 and Habitat III, the world is looking for opportunities on the way to sustainability, looking for innovative and transformative solutions. Energy use, efficiency and renewable, will be critical throughout the pathway and cities will have a central role to play in the transition to sustainable energy. In this context of major stakes and challenges, District Energy Systems provides an integrated solution for unlocking the potential of energy efficiency and renewable energy.” He continued by stressing the role of Asia: “Considering the current and expected increasing demand for energy in Asia, we believe the tool provided for implementing District Energy Systems in Asia cities will be very useful in accompanying local policy and decision makers in managing more efficiently their resources and providing solid basis for a sustainable lifestyle for their citizens".

As first pilot city from this region, Indian city Rajkot signed the city’s commitment publicly represented by the Municipal Commissioner Mr. Vijay Nehra and Mayor Mrs. Rakshaben Bolyia. Mayor Bolyia put forward Rajkot’s ambition to inspire: “As the first citizen of Rajkot, I am happy that Rajkot is joining the global District Energy Systems in Cities Initiative. We are certain that our experience in this will also help other cities in India.” This statement was further supported by Rajkot’s Municipal Commissioner Mr. Vijay Nehra: “Rajkot is delighted to be the first pilot city in India to partner with UNEP and ICLEI for implementing District Energy Systems. We are hopeful that our experience in implementing the Urban-LEDS project together with ICLEI will help us apply the District Energy Systems pilot project.”

Host City of the World Congress, the City of Seoul, has also contributed to the initiative by sharing experiences as a champion city in the recently launched initiative’s flagship publication: “District Energy in Cities: Unlocking the Potential of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy” which was produced in collaboration with the Copenhagen Centre for Energy Efficiency (C2E2), ICLEI and UN-Habitat.
The session also featured the initiative’s first training tailored to support local decision makers by introducing tools as well as the “District Energy Training Modules” and 10 Step methodology developed as an outcome of the District Energy publication and exchange with 45 cities (i.e. a toolkit) to scale up and modernize district energy systems in cities to develop or scale up District Energy Systems in their local governments.

The initiative Flagship Report finds that a transition to modern district energy systems could contribute to 58 per cent of the required energy sector emissions reductions by 2050, would reduce primary energy consumption in heating and cooling by up to 50 per cent and enable cities and countries to achieve 100% renewable energy or carbon neutral targets. The District Energy in Cities Initiative will lend support to local governments to develop, retrofit and scale-up district energy systems.

Based on 150 interviews and 45 city case studies, the report highlights how local governments are uniquely positioned to accelerate the transition to sustainable energy as managers of energy infrastructure, providers of services, and as important actors in catalyzing local investment for district energy systems, playing a central role in addressing the associated risks and costs. Several cities such as Dubai, Munich, Tokyo, Paris, and Warsaw have attracted more than US$150 million of investment in their respective district energy systems between 2009 and 2014 (report survey with 45 champion cities).

As demonstrated across the 45 cities presented in the publication, District Energy Systems (DES) provide smart and intelligent energy infrastructure, making it possible to integrate and utilize all sources of energy for heating & cooling in a highly efficient manner. This is urgently needed as energy consumption for space cooling increased 60 per cent globally from 2000 - 2010 (IEA, 2014). Under the IEA 2°Celsius scenario, cooling is set to expand 625 per cent by 2050 in selected regions of Asia & Latin America. Thus, cooling demand is growing as spending on energy services increases – particularly in developing countries – and as more of the population moves to cities. After a survey of low-carbon cities worldwide key factors underlying their success in scaling up energy efficiency and renewable energy, as well as in attaining targets for zero or low GHG emissions were identified: District energy systems (DES) emerged as key best practice approach for providing a local, affordable, sustainable energy supply, improve EE and support energy access efforts.

It also emerged as key to enable high shares of renewables in the energy mix.
Countries such as Denmark have made modern DES as the cornerstone of their energy policy to reach their goal of 100 % renewable energy, and, similarly, other countries, such as China, are exploring synergies between high levels of wind production and district heating. As shown in the report, among the core components of the transition to a sustainable energy future are the integration of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies, and the need to use “systems thinking” when addressing challenges in the energy, transport, buildings and industry sectors. Support will also be lent via the initiative’s participating international and financial partners as well as the private sector.

The work on District Energy Systems (DES) is part of the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All) Global Energy Efficiency Accelerator Platform, launched at last year’s Climate Summit leaders from over 50 countries and cities and over a dozen businesses announced large-scale new commitments on energy efficiency that will significantly reduce emissions and lower energy costs. These commitments focus on five energy efficiency sector initiatives, or “accelerators.”, with the District Energy in Cities Initiative being one of them. While UNEP co-chairs the SE4ALL Initiative Energy Efficiency Committee and leads 4 of the current 5 EE Accelerators (on lighting, vehicle efficiency, appliances and district energy), the World Resources Institute (WRI) is leading the Building Accelerator and also hosted a training session today at the Congress, aiming for doubling the rate of global energy efficiency by 2030.

Cities and other local stakeholders are invited to join the Global District Energy in Cities Initiative, and thus further contribute to the global SE4ALL energy efficiency efforts, as a global role model and leader. This will also be an important sign of political will of urban stakeholders on the Road to COP21 in Paris end of this year where cities are high on the agenda for reaching a meaningful outcome.

More on the District Energy Systems in Cities initiative

The Initiative includes 6 industry associations including Euroheat and Power, the International District Energy Association as well as global renewable energy associations, 8 private sector companies 6 national and international entities such as ICLEI, UN-Habitat, the US Department of Energy, IEA, and 22 cities spanning from Warsaw, Poland to Anshan, China; Paris, France to Seoul, South Korea. The initiative will leverage this pool of expertise to provide capacity building, technical assistance and strengthen the transfer of policy, finance and technical know-how to local, sub-national and national governments. Twinning between cities - matching champion ones with learning ones - will be a key component of the new district energy initiative coordinated by UNEP. The Government of Denmark is supporting the initial phase of this new initiative wherein UNEP & Partners will: provide technical assistance and capacity building to pilot cities to concretely demonstrate how to develop a replicable district energy policy-investment roadmap in different regions, for different DE applications (heat, cool, and retrofit) using the ‘10-steps’ and decision tree; launch a targeted outreach campaign; develop tailored tools and best-practice guidance and mobilize finance as well as provide sector operators and service providers to invest in modern DES.

The next regional publication and initiative launch will take place in Tallinn Estonia at the 37th Euroheat and Power Congress in Tallinn, Estonia on April 27-29th 2015. The regional workshop is hosted by UNEP and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) in collaboration with Euroheat and Power, and the District Energy Initiatives Champion Cities: London, UK, Warsaw, Poland, Vilnius, Lithuania and Sonderburg Denmark. See http://www.ehpcongress.org/programme/partner-side-events/

More information on the initiative at:http://www.unep.org/energy/districtenergyincities

More on the flagship publication

District Energy in Cities: Unlocking the Potential of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy” has been produced in collaboration with the Copenhagen Centre for Energy Efficiency (C2E2), ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability and UN-Habitat. Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme led the global launch of this publication in Paris on 24 February, 2015 (video of the launch available on youtube or at www.unep.org/energy/des). Ligia Noronha, Director of the Division of Technology, Industry and Economics (DTIE) at UNEP gave a keynote on the publication at European Commission hosted conference “Heating and Cooling in the European Energy Transition” in Brussels on 25-26 February 2015 intended to inform the EU Heat Strategy. Keynote by Dr. Noronha (at 51.30min).

About UNEP

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is the voice for the environment in the UN system. Established in 1972, UNEP's mission is to provide leadership and encourage partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations. UNEP is an advocate, educator, catalyst and facilitator, promoting the wise use of the planet's natural assets for sustainable development. It works with many partners, UN entities, international organizations, national Governments, non-governmental organizations, business, industry, the media and civil society. UNEP's work involves providing support for: environmental assessment and reporting; legal and institutional strengthening and environmental policy development; sustainable use and management of natural resources; integration of economic development and environmental protection; and promoting public participation in environmental management.


ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability is the world’s leading network of over 1,000 cities, towns and metropolises committed to building a sustainable future. By helping our Members to make their cities sustainable, low-carbon, resilient, biodiverse, resource-efficient, healthy and happy, with a green economy and smart infrastructure, we impact over 20% of the global urban population.

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