US companies working in the district energy field which have not already looked overseas for work were urged to enter fast-growing export markets in the Middle East, China and India by Gary Locke, Secretary of the US Department of Commerce. Speaking at the second day of the International District Energy Association (IDEA) annual conference in Washington DC on 30 June Secretary Locke, Locke was giving the Department of Commerce Export Achievement award to EVAPCO for its work in district cooling and ice storage in China.

The Department has already helped several US companies to win work in these areas, said Locke, adding that district energy can work just as well at a university in Beijing, and cogeneration can benefit an industrial site in Bangalore the same as a plant in the US.

Not that the US markets for district energy isn’t itself healthy, at least until the end of last year. District energy in the US has grown every year since 1990, said IDEA President Robert Thornton, with 130 new buildings connected in 2008 alone, most numerously in New York (18 buildings connected), Minneapolis (7), Philadelphia (12) and Detroit (5). But these figures are put into context by data from the Middle East. According to IDEA, projects in the UAE and Qatar connected slightly more than 3000 buildings in 2008, including what is thought to be the largest district cooling system in the world, in Qatar, which serves 73 million square feet of space with 130,000 tonnes of cooling.

Whether the data for the US or the Middle East for 2009 will show a rise for yet another year will only be revealed this time next year. IDEA was celebrating its 100th annual conference and trade show in Washington DC.