District energy in Canada

Erecting the drilling rig to tunnel for the deep water cooling project in Toronto/Lake Ontario (Enwave District Energy Limited)

Floating plastic water intake piping across Lake Ontario prior to sinking it in place. Piping is being used for the deep lake cooling project designed to eliminate a large proportion of downtown Toronto’s dependence on electric chilling (Enwave District Energy Limited)

The good news is that the industry is now growing steadily with a clearer recognition of its role as a community builder. New systems tend to be custom-designed for a specific location and task, modest in size (

Before the 1990s the DE scene in Canada was limited. With the exception of Charlottetown in Prince Edward Island, all systems comprised centralized boiler plants located in the main centres of Toronto, London and Ottawa, all in Ontario; Vancouver in British Columbia, and Montreal in Quebec. With today’s widespread access to natural gas, their profitability has become dependent upon their ability to predict and purchase their fuel requirements. Despite the economic tightrope that many of these systems are forced to walk, they continue to provide excellent service, expanding and diversifying steadily.

Trends from East to West

What is the status of district heating and cooling in Europe – and how does the picture vary between EU countries and those of Central and Eastern Europe? Euroheat & Power’s recent survey set out to discover and present just this information. Norela Constantinescu summarizes some surprising findings.

The district heating (DH) sector supplies heat to more than 100 million people in Europe (Russia excluded). District heating has a higher residential market share in Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries (approximately 40%) than in the present EU Member States (10%).

Figure 1. District heating production and residential market share

However, DH also continues its upward trend in several EU Member States. Meanwhile, in Central and Eastern Europe, while DH’s share in the residential market is stable, production in 2003 has significantly decreased compared to 1999. Higher DH prices, as well as the introduction and expansion of metering systems, have led to changes in customer behaviour and consequently to energy savings. At the same time, the refurbishment and modernization of DH schemes has induced further energy savings.

While the DH share in the residential heat market is generally higher in CEE countries, the proportion of CHP in DH production is lower than in EU Member States (an average of 52% compared to 67%). The further development of DH schemes in combination with CHP in CEE countries could thus result in a significant improvement in energy efficiency, with higher energy savings and reduced carbon dioxide emissions.

Figure 2. CHP share in DH production in 2001

As regards fuel use, EU Member States are more diversified than CEE countries. While the share of natural gas is almost the same in both EU Member States and CEE countries, the average share of coal is higher in the latter.

There are diverging trends in fuel use of EU members and CEE countries. CEE countries have moved towards natural gas, while the EU Member States switched more towards renewables and waste. In the case of EU Member States, the trend can be explained by the increase of natural gas prices while for CEE countries the trend is due to the modernization of district heating schemes (carried out to achieve higher efficiencies).

The district cooling (DC) sector has developed fast in recent years, both in Northern and Southern EU countries.