District energy is a great way to reduce both the costs and environmental impacts of energy use on campuses, in communities, or in central urban districts. Investing in new systems now will generate jobs when they are needed most and energy savings and emissions reductions for decades to come. An increasing number of new district energy systems are taking advantage of locally-produced renewable energy.
District energy systems that use combined heat and power (CHP) to provide electric power, in addition to heating and cooling, can achieve energy efficiencies of 80 percent or more – far greater than when heat and power are generated separately. Although fossil natural gas is probably the least expensive choice today to fuel new district energy systems in many parts of the country, in some local energy markets with renewable energy incentives, locally-produced renewable fuels (such as biomass in Montpelier, VT and landfill gas at the University of New Hampshire , other renewable energy technologies (such as geothermal at Ball State University , hydrothermal at Cornell , and solar thermal in St. Paul , and municipal solid waste in Detroit are competitive economically.
On September 23, EESI hosted a briefing on Capitol Hill entitled "District Energy: Essential Infrastructure for Energy-Efficient Communities." EESI has also published a fact sheet on district energy that has many other examples of district energy systems around the country, including some that are using biomass for fuel.