Friday, October 8, 2010

What is District Energy?

That is a question many Americans will have in the coming months as Congress begins to take up legislation that will attempt to put our renewable thermal needs on par with our renewable electricity needs -- something that has been going on for decades in countries like Denmark.

The Environmental and Energy Study Institute recently held a panel discussion with industry leaders on Capitol Hill to talk about what exactly is District Energy and Combined Heat and Power and why it is so crucial to meeting our energy needs in a sustainable way.

The event, titled "How We Can Tap Renewable Thermal Energy and Waste Heat," featured speakers including International District Energy Association President Rob Thornton, District Energy St. Paul President and CEO Ken Smith, International District Energy Association Legislative Director Mark Spurr and American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy Associate Director of Research Neil Elliot.

Here are some notable quotes from the event followed by the full video of the presentation.

Rob Thornton:

"District cooling takes the bad cholesterol out of buildings."

"By taking energy out of buildings you increase the value of those buildings."

"Those energy dollars are recirculated in the economy."

"130 years ago District Energy was started in the U.S. as an emission control strategy. It was the first air quality strategy in the country."

"In the U.S. two-thirds of fuel is wasted. We only use 9% with Combined Heat and Power. Denmark uses over 60% with CHP."

"97% of Copenhagen is on District Heating. There is a wholesale heat grid in Denmark. They don't waste heat, they use it. Denmark has an energy surplus of $5.5. billion, their energy efficiency is up 4%, their fuel consumption is down 17% and their GDP is up 78%."

Ken Smith:

"St. Paul is the largest hot water district energy system in the U.S."

"Our thermal storage wood-fired CHP plant in downtown St. Paul serves 85% of downtown businesses."

"We are at 70% renewable with a goal of 100% renewable."

"Waste heat is a tremendous opportunity."

"Our plan is for the largest solar thermal integration in the Midwest. It will be the first project of its kind in the U.S."

Mark Spurr:

"The goal of the Thermal Renewable Energy and Efficiency Act of 2010 is to stimulate investments in low-carbon thermal energy infrastructure by focusing on the use of renewable energy to supply heating and cooling."

"Provisions include a renewable thermal production tax credit, tax-exempt bonding and energy sustainability grants for institutions."

Neil Elliot:

"One-third of energy goes to thermal, not electricity."

"These are opportunity fuels -- wood, geothermal, biomass, landfill gas and solar thermal."

"People know kilowatts, they don't know the value of thermal energy."

"In terms of environmental regulations, we treat thermal different than power. Thermal energy isn't valued."

"This legislation puts value on thermal energy. The bill begins an important step forward."

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