Enabling Sustainable Cities Through energy Efficient Heating & Cooling

Cities cause more than 70% of global carbon emissions – but can also be sites for innovative solutions. Implementation of heat recovery, as well as district heating and cooling, have already been proven to significantly improve energy efficiency in cities and will be an integral part of reaching net zero goals in cities across the world. Alfa Laval has been working with district heating and cooling technologies for almost a century and knows that by sharing the knowledge and experience of successful projects, many more cities can reduce their emissions while saving money on energy costs. Join Alfa Laval at the COP28 Climate Hub to learn more about existing solutions for energy efficiency in cities!
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Climate action in cities is crucial in the climate transition. With more than 50% of the global population, 80% of global GDP, 80% of global energy consumption, and over 70% of annual global carbon emissions, cities' impact on the planet is significant. With an expected growth to more than 70% of the world’s population living in cities by 2050, this impact is anticipated to keep growing while emissions need to shrink to near zero. Energy efficiency in cities today is therefore paramount to overcoming our climate and energy challenges.
Climate policies containing goals and action plans for Sustainable Cities are currently being passed by governments. For example, in the European Union’s Fit for 55 plan, the energy efficiency target has been increased. Previously, the target was for 32,5% less energy consumption by 2030, and it has now been updated to 39% less energy consumption by the same year. One of the key contributors to reaching this goal will be making the heating and cooling sector more efficient, as it currently represents half of the EU’s final energy consumption and mainly relies on fossil fuels.
“Optimizing urban energy ecosystems demands a holistic approach and a comprehensive strategy in terms of electricity, heating, and cooling. With the electrification and rapidly increasing city populations, the need for electricity, heating, and cooling is expected to dramatically increase the urge for energy efficient technologies. To meet this demand and make the cities truly sustainable, collaboration and sector coupling along with the implementation of energy efficient technologies are crucial,” said Thomas Møller, President Energy Division, Alfa Laval.

Solving the heating & cooling challenge through heat recovery

Today, half of the world’s energy is wasted in our cooling towers or our lakes and rivers. But some cities have built underground networks that can reuse heat from facilities like industries, data centers, and wastewater treatment centers, and use it to heat other buildings and tap water. These cross-sector heat recovery systems, called heat networks, reduce energy waste, which means more of our renewable energy can be used in the green transition to power electrical vehicles or chemical processes. When we do more with the energy we have, we become less reliant on fossil fuels to cover dips in power supply.
This is not just a theory – the system is seeing action in multiple cities around the world. In Hamburg, the Aurubis Group has leveraged Alfa Laval heat transfer solutions to recover heat that was previously released into the river Elbe. Now, the heat has the potential to heat 20,000 homes through HafenCity’s district heating network, a system to make heating more efficient by aggregating demand from residential and commercial buildings in an area into a single heating process, making it more energy efficient. The same concept has been applied to Kemira Kemi’s chemical manufacturing process to provide heat to Helsingborg city’s district heating system.

District heating & cooling – an established solution

Through heat recovery and district heating, the energy consumption of cities can be significantly reduced.
Through heat recovery and district heating, the energy consumption of cities can be significantly reduced.

“At Alfa Laval, we have been working with district heating for almost a century. In Sweden, the oil crisis in the 1970s fueled an energy transformation where oil boilers were replaced by other heating sources, and district heating has been a central part of urban heating in Sweden ever since. Now, we want to take responsibility for the climate transition and drive these technologies to make cities more energy efficient and less fossil fuel dependent in relation to heating and cooling buildings,” said Thomas Møller.
Cooling is expected to also be a significant contributor to energy use in the future, foreseen to triple in demand globally by 2050, consuming as much energy as today’s energy consumption of China and India. Rising demand for space cooling is putting enormous strain on electricity systems in many countries, as well as driving up emissions. Cooling is costly and strains power grids, but improving energy efficient cooling and adopting district cooling can help.
One successful example is the Louvre in Paris, which is cooled by one of the world’s largest district cooling systems with a 52 km underground network serving over 500 buildings. Each building is cooled via a fully automated delivery substation connected to a network of district cooling plants. The cooling plants mainly use water from the River Seine and are complemented with a cooling tower for refrigeration during peak demands.
This district cooling system reduces both energy consumption and environmental impact. It is estimated that a typical building using the system creates 20 percent lower carbon dioxide emissions and 30 percent less refrigerant leakage compared to an individual air conditioning system. Additionally, it is estimated that using river water saves some 500,000 cubic meters of drinking water every year. For this district cooling project, Alfa Laval supplied the total concept including installation and maintenance, and plate heat exchangers for 100 substations. Read more about the project here.
Using district cooling in developing countries could save over $1 trillion in energy costs by 2035. Gulf Cooperation Council countries have been early adopters of district cooling, and by using them as examples we can see that government involvement is crucial for its success, including mandating its use, licensing operators, setting standards, developing contracts, and regulating prices.

Collaborations and partnerships drive the transition

To accelerate the transition, cross-sector partnerships are absolutely crucial. City governments need to act to enable and incentivize district heating and heat recovery. For example, the city of Stockholm invites data centers to establish themselves in strategic locations to feed heat into the district heating system. In 2022, this allowed for 20 heat suppliers in the form of data centers supplying over 100 GWh of energy, reducing the energy system’s carbon emissions by 50g of CO2 equivalents per kWh. Solutions like this, combined with new business models where companies can be paid to provide energy to the grid, can speed up the transition towards more energy efficient heating & cooling systems and enable crucial emission reductions before 2030.
If you want to learn more about how to make cities more sustainable by reducing the amount of energy they waste, make sure to tune in for our session Accelerate Sustainable Cities to Reach Net Zero at the COP28 Climate Hub on December 6th, at 2 pm Gulf Standard Time. Listen to thought leaders like Mark Watts from C40 Cities, Martina Otto at UNEP, and Rosalinde van der Vlies in the European Commission to energy companies like E.ON, industrial sectors such as Alfa Laval and Hitachi Energy, and governmental representatives like the Mayors of Stockholm, Missouri, and Masdar City as they explore opportunities and barriers to accelerate sustainable cities to reach net zero.
  • Global League

    14 w

    Great initiative. We've added it into our writing on built environment, welcome to participate in our conversation with investors.

    • winnie nguru

      20 w


      • Judy Holm Climate Designers

        20 w

        Brilliant 💚

        • zelda ninga

          20 w

          Bringing the green to the city.

          • solartony

            20 w

            ...don't lie to yourself ...cities are not sustainable ....ever ...that would violate the laws of thermodynamics ...

            • Gorffly mokua

              20 w

              Great! This will help mitigate environmental impact & also contribute to creating healthier and more livable urban environments for all.

              • Adam Wallin

                21 w

                We need to see our biggest problems as potentials for improvement, and then push decision makers to make the right decisions to make this improvement a reality. Good examples from cities that lead the way definitely help, I look forward to December 6th!

                • Esther Wanjiku

                  21 w

                  Very remarkable

                  • Princess

                    21 w

                    This is commendable approach

                    • Grace Njeri

                      21 w

                      Sustainable cities play an important role in reducing global emissions.

                      • Saustine Lusanzu

                        21 w

                        Sustainable cities is what we need

                        • Kevin

                          21 w

                          All metropolitan and cosmopolitan areas must be supported to achieve this

                          • Rashid Kamau

                            21 w

                            Urban energy efficiency must be supported.

                            • Munene Mugambi

                              21 w

                              Cities cause such large emission numbers due to lack of access to clean energy, usage of fossil powered vehicles and the high number of people living in each city. We can solve this issues by provision of affordable and reliable electric vehicles, provision of clean energy on city grids and by reducing urbanisation by developing other rural areas to make people want to live there.

                              • Rotich Kim

                                21 w

                                This is acheivable all cities should be power by green energy in the few coming years this is possible thro collaboration of all stakeholders

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