Operators of district energy systems from Texas, via Europe, to China have won the six winner places in the first ever District Energy Climate Awards, presented at the District Energy Climate Summit held in Copenhagen on 3 November.

Denmark’s Municipality of Copenhagen; the University of Texas at Austin; the Swedish Boras Energi Miljo; the French city of Dunkerque, China’s Jiamusi Municipality and the Cracow Municipal Heat Company in Poland won the inaugural awards. The event was held as a precursor to the COP 15 event due to be held in the same city in the first week of December. The organisers, the US and European district energy trade associations (IDEA and Euroheat & Power) together with two Danish district heating organizations, intend to pass a message on the importance of district energy systems on to delegates to the COP 15 meeting.

The Copenhagen district energy system is seen as one of the very best in the world, supplying heat to 97-98% of the buildings in the capital. The University of Texas has operated with a reliability of 99.998% over the last 35 years, while the Swedish city of Boras intends to build on the existing system to eventually become a fossil-free city. Dunkerque makes increasing use of ‘waste’ heat from the local steel works, while Dalkia is doing upgrading and extension work at the coal-fired Jiamusi system in northern China. Meanwhile, Cracow has seen major upgrades to its district heating system threaded into the historic city.

Earlier, Frederic Hugo from French energy service company Cofely had described work that his company is doing at 130 district energy systems across Europe – including a new geothermal loop at the giant Paris district heating system; switching a smaller French system from fossil fuels to biomass; the new district heating and cooling system being installed in Barcelona; and the seasonal heat storage system employed at a new system in Amsterdam. The main theme to emerge was that, with cities and buildings responsible for a majority of carbon emissions, city and municipal authorities have a potentially enormous role to play in post-Kyoto climate-protection activity.

With such a variety of heating, cooling, power, renewables- and fossil fuel-based systems on show, it was left to the International District Energy Association’s Rob Thornton to conclude that delegates remember to spread the word that ‘district energy is the backbone of sustainable cities’.