Guelph begins building North America's first city-wide district energy network

The new high-efficiency heating and cooling system in the Sleeman Centre in downtown Guelph is an important first step toward building North America's first city-wide district energy network.
While district energy technology dates back to ancient Rome, and there are thousands of individual systems across the world today, Guelph is the first community in North America to establish and announce a plan for an interconnected thermal grid to serve industrial, commercial and residential buildings across an entire city.
Guelph's award-winning Community Energy Initiative is internationally recognized for changing the way cities think about energy—from how energy integrates with municipal infrastructure plans to finding ways to manage energy differently, better, than in the past.
As part of the initiative, Guelph's plans for district energy are centred on a city-wide thermal energy network allowing neighbourhoods to share a more sustainable heating and cooling system. It's all laid out in Guelph's District Energy Strategic Plan.
Buildings connected to a district energy system don't need individual furnaces, air conditioning units, or water heaters. Instead, an underground network of pipes installed alongside water, electricity, and other utilities, allows multiple buildings to share energy for heating, cooling, and hot water. Benefits include lower fuel and equipment costs, reduced space requirements, lower building and maintenance costs and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
The first of many planned district energy facilities began operating just before the New Year at the Sleeman Centre—Guelph's premier sports and entertainment venue. The system is owned and operated by Envida Community Energy Inc., a subsidiary of Guelph Hydro Inc. and will serve as the central heating and cooling plant for the Galt District Energy System.
The system at the Sleeman Centre uses natural gas to heat water in boilers for space heating, and has a central chilling unit to chill water for cooling. Later this year the system will be expanded to heat and cool Guelph's River Run Centre for the performing arts and other commercial and residential developments in the area.
The District Energy Strategic Plan identifies other key locations for district energy nodes across the city including the 675-acre Hanlon Creek Business Park.
Guelph's goal is to use its district energy network to supply at least 50 per cent of the community's heating needs in the next 30 years.
Several key partners, including Guelph Hydro Inc., and Envida Community Energy Inc., are key implementers of the Community Energy Initiative, making better use of local energy sources, creating local jobs and keeping more energy dollars in Guelph.
"The Galt District Energy System is an excellent example of how we are doing more with less—in this case, providing cost-competitive, and clean heating and cooling while consuming less energy. In addition to the financial and environmental benefits, this project supports the local economy and creates local jobs. It also improves Guelph's energy security by reducing our reliance on the provincial transmission grid."
-- Guelph Mayor Karen Farbridge
"The network can distribute heat from a variety of sources including traditional fuels like natural gas and renewable resources like solar thermal, combined heat and power systems, geothermal, biofuels and even industrial waste heat. This offers reliable, cost-competitive energy services for commercial, industrial and residential facilities, and creates exciting opportunities for energy investors and project developers."
-- Rob Kerr, Corporate Manager of Community Energy, City of Guelph
"We believe the strategy to invest in a more sustainable energy infrastructure to benefit the community and the environment will prove to be a competitive advantage that will create long-term value for the community. Envida Community Energy's district energy facility in the Sleeman Centre is the beginning of a cleaner, healthier energy future for Guelph."
-- Ron Collins, Vice-president of Business Development and Partnerships, Guelph Hydro Inc.
"The International District Energy Association (IDEA) congratulates the City of Guelph and Envida Community Energy, the Guelph Hydro affiliate, on the commencement of commercial operation of their new downtown district heating system. District heating is a proven approach to enhance community energy resiliency, reduce emissions and strengthen the local economy and we are pleased to welcome the Galt District Energy System to the growing global community of district energy systems around the world.
-- Robert P. Thornton, President and CEO, International District Energy Association

on January 23, 2014