generation, particularly fueled by natural
gas, should not be permitted without fully
investigating the energy, environmental and
cost benefits of CHP.
2. Provide feasibility and planning grants
or low-interest loans for groups of
buildings where district heating and
cooling could provide long-term benefits.
This includes college and school campuses;
corporate campuses; city, federal and state
office complexes; industrial parks; and central
3. Provide policies that offer incentives
and financial help to district heating and
cooling development. These incentives
could include government-backed loans,
accelerated depreciation mechanisms and
4. Consider a new business model where
a government entity owns the thermal
piping network (similar to water and
sewer systems) and a private operator
operates the system and markets
thermal service to customers. Thermal
energy supply to this model could be from
private or government-owned energy sources.
5. Implement a national goal to increase
electric generation efficiency.
Of course, these ideas won’t cause an
immediate widespread change in U.S. energy
infrastructure, but they could provide the
push needed for district energy to become
a larger player in our overall energy system.
There will always be a place for district
energy in America, even with current policies.
Where building owners make decisions based
on life-cycle costs and long-term development
plans, district energy will consistently prove
attractive. On the other hand, our industry
and the country can benefit greatly from a
move to long-term thinking and energy
systems that include a diversity of energy
supplies. I am sure we would all support a
revitalization of new district energy system
development in the U.S. that rivals or even
surpasses the great strides made by the
countries of the Middle East.
David W. Wade, PE, is president of RDA Engineering Inc.
in Atlanta and has been an
IDEA member for more than
25 years. He has served on
IDEA's board and is a past
chair of ASHRAE's national
technical committees dealing
with building steam and hot water systems and
district heating and cooling. Wade may be
reached at email@example.com.
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