Editor’s note: In July 2018, Krishnan Iyer
was appointed president and CEO of Vancouver, B.C.-based Creative Energy, owner-operator of one of Canada’s largest thermal
energy networks. Iyer was most recently
executive vice president, lending and chief
financial officer at Infrastructure Ontario.
He previously served as interim chief financial officer of Borealis Infrastructure, which
owns and manages major infrastructure
assets in North America and Europe. From
1998 to 2013, he was part of a core team
that was instrumental in expanding the
footprint of district energy in Toronto
through various senior roles with Enwave
Energy Corp., including as chief finan-
cial officer and executive vice president,
company operations. District Energy
is pleased to share some of his insights
about the state of the industry today.
QYou have been in the district energy business for more than
20 years. What are some of the most
significant changes that you have wit-
nessed over that time?
Krishnan Iyer: The first thing that
comes to mind is awareness. A quarter-century ago district energy was known
primarily in Europe. It was largely
unknown here in North America, even
though we had more than 150 systems
in the U.S. and Canada. Today, there is
greater awareness of these systems.
District energy is becoming better
known because of rapid urbanization,
the commitment of local governments
to greenhouse gas reduction and consciousness of the overall greening of
economies. For the past 20 years or
so, federal and municipal governments
have been developing programs for
green standards. District energy stands
to effectively meet these standards by
providing a cost-effective solution to
end users, developers and the entire
The second change is in ownership
models. Until recently, most district
energy systems were locally owned by
a municipality, a university or a utility.
Today, as a result of the phenomenal
growth and recognition of this industry,
it is attracting long-term private infrastructure capital from around the globe.
This helps in renewing some of the
aging systems and developing capital-intensive renewable technologies with
adequate investment that provides
reasonable long-term returns for the
infrastructure investors. We are seeing
public-private partnerships in mainly
municipal and university campus-owned systems.
You can see evidence of these
trends in the content and participation
of IDEA conferences. Twenty years
ago, the content was geared primarily
toward the needs of system operators.
While IDEA maintains that quality content and facilitates the sharing of knowledge and new technologies, we also
see asset managers and financial players taking an important role. The conferences increase their understanding
of the business, and that helps them
in deploying more capital. The more
sources of capital available for this business, the more growth we can anticipate.
It’s a good story.
QCreative Energy has a long and suc- cessful history as Central Heat Distribution Ltd., which began operations
in 1968. As a mature system, where do
you see the greatest opportunities for
innovation and growth?
KI: Creative is one of the oldest district energy systems in Canada. It has
been operating since 1968, providing
uninterrupted supply of space heating
and domestic hot water with six nines of
reliability. Today it serves more than 210
diverse customer buildings, including a
large hospital, downtown Vancouver landmark office buildings, sports arenas, high-rise hotels and residences.
Creative Energy is embarking on a
major renewal and redevelopment of its
core downtown Vancouver facility that
will lower the energy system’s greenhouse gas emissions by 6,500 tonnes
each year. We are also adding new hot
water networks and exploring the potential for low-carbon fuel sources in the
core system. In addition to the modernization and expansion of the core downtown system, we are developing eight
other neighborhood systems, where
low-carbon energy sources include geoexchange, combined heat and power,
ocean-loop exchange, and heat recovery
We see great opportunities for innovation and growth. We are technology-agnostic, and we rely on our core strength
of on-time, on-budget delivery of projects
and operating them over a long term to
achieve win-win-win situations for developers, end users and for us as a service
QSustainability has become an increasingly important attribute
of today’s energy systems. What is Cre-
Krishnan Iyer outlines
plans to incorporate
into the company's