Decarbonizing District Energy Systems

Many buildings and industrial sites rely on district heating, ranging from large sections of urban centres to smaller areas such as university and medical campuses. District energy systems offer many benefits ranging from minimized energy consumption, economic savings to better versatility and improved reliability and convenience. They are increasing in popularity as sources of energy for heating and cooling in buildings.

The buildings sector is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions around the world, with some estimates showing they are responsible for up to 40% of global GHG emissions. Increasingly, building owners are exploring how they can implement decarbonization solutions to reduce their facilities’ carbon footprint.

In 2021, nearly 90% of district energy globally was produced from fossil fuels (source: International Energy Agency). Given their benefits and that they can serve large areas of building infrastructure in an efficient, cost-effective and flexible manner, decarbonizing district energy systems offers significant untapped potential. Across all the industry sectors we serve, we are seeing advancements in technologies that support decarbonization of district energy, particularly in heat pump technology and electrification as replacements for natural gas and other fossil fuel-based energy sources.

Some of our Notable Decarbonization Work

British Columbia is a leader in Canada in developing policy to mitigate climate change impact. The province’s Zero Carbon Step Code took effect on May 1, 2023 with the objective to reduce the consumption of natural gas in the operation of buildings and incentivize electrification. We are currently working with Creative Energy to modernize their existing district energy system in downtown Vancouver. This plant is one of the largest district energy systems in North America and services over 45 million ft2 of floor area. We are working with the client on the development of their new

In Toronto, Toronto’s Enwave District Energy System is the largest in North America, serving 180 buildings, and the greening of its infrastructure is a major gain in the effort to decarbonize buildings.

If you are considering a district energy system for your project or are seeing to modernize your existing system, contact our specialized Energy team who can help.


Phil Schuyler, Director, Energy Division

District Energy Association's Campus Energy Conference

Several of our energy specialists attended the recent International District Energy Association’s Campus Energy 2023 conference in Texas, where heat pump technology featured prominently. Among their take-aways from the conference:

  • The transfer of higher temperature heat pump technology, traditionally used in industrial applications, to the commercial/institutional sector at reasonable costs
  • Biomass from sustainable forestry operations as a cost-effective alternative to current dirty fuel sources
  • The need for master planning and feasibility analyses to establish baseline performance with a view to setting appropriate targets


Read more

Enwave Press Release for Pearl Street Energy Centre

CBC News Feature:

Creative Energy Downtown Vancouver Re-development and Decarbonization