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IDEA chief calls for more microgrids in increasingly urbanized world

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The head of the International District Energy Association (IDEA) believes greater use of district heating and cooling networks and microgrids are needed to adapt to the challenges faced by the world’s growing cities.

Robert P. Thornton, president & CEO of IDEA, told gineersnow.com, “one of the key challenges facing our both industry and society at large is the rapid urbanization and growing energy density of cities. With over 50% of the global population now living in cities and forecast to grow to over 70% by 2050 (more than 7 billion people), it is vitally important that cities deploy district energy systems to minimize waste and optimize energy and water use.”
Rob Thornton of the IDEA
“Because district energy systems aggregate the heating, cooling and energy needs of dozens or even hundreds of customer buildings, we achieve economies of scale that facilitate investment in robust, efficient and highly reliable assets that may not otherwise be economically viable or feasible on an individual building basis.”

Thornton added that district energy systems enhance energy security and resiliency while providing better balance and synergy for integrating clean energy technologies, local thermal resources and the regional grid.

“Cities represent approximately 2% of global land mass yet account for nearly 70% of global energy use and 50% of global CO2 emissions,” he said.

There is a growing recognition for the benefits of district energy in cities, for various reasons, whether tackling pollution or straightforward energy efficiency.

In London, Mayor Sadiq Khan announced the first of 50 air quality audits, all of which will take place at primary schools in the worst-polluted areas. The work is to include an assessment of possibilities for incorporation of district heating and cooling schemes in order to curb emissions near schools in the UK capital.

In the UAE, Dubai’s Emirates Towers began utilizing district cooling, which has a total capacity of 6,000 refrigeration tonnes (RT). The conversion from the Towers’ existing air-cooled system to the district cooling system will result in energy savings of about 80% for the Jumeirah Group-owned property.


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