District Energy Systems Training


This training covers the basics of district energy systems (DES). It shares valuable insights of the key aspects of DES planning, as well as tools and skills to successfully implement DES at a city and district scale. By following this training you will also be able to learn more about real cases across the globe, including China, Chile, India, Argentina, Denmark, Sweden, France, etc..

The programme is conceived within the District Energy in Cities initiative – a global initiative with the aim to unlock the potential of centralised energy solutions to double the rate of energy efficiency improvements for heating and cooling in buildings by 2030, helping countries meet their climate and sustainable development targets. The content has been developed by UNEP in collaboration with the UNEP-DTU Partnership, and financed by the GEF-6 project.

About the District Energy in Cities initiative

The District Energy in Cities Initiative is a multi-stakeholder partnership coordinated by UN Environment, with financial support from DANIDA, the Global Environment Facility, Italian Ministry of Environment and Protection of Land and Sea, and the Kigali Cooling Efficiency Program (K-CEP).

As one of six accelerators of the Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL) Energy Efficiency Accelerator Platform, the Initiative aims to double the rate of energy efficiency improvements for heating and cooling in buildings by 2030, helping countries meet their climate and sustainable development targets.

The Initiative supports local and national governments to build know-how and implement enabling policies that will accelerate investment in low-carbon and climate-resilient district energy systems. It currently provides technical support to cities in four pilot countries (Chile, China, India and Serbia) and ten replication countries (Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia, Egypt, Malaysia, Mongolia, Morocco, Russia, the Seychelles and Tunisia).


DES allow up to 50 per cent less primary energy consumption for heating and cooling than existing decentralised solutions. They also enable the recovery and distribution of surplus and low-grade heat and cold to end-users (e.g. waste heat from industry, power stations, waste incinerators and sewage treatment or cooling from water bodies and even liquid natural gas (LNG) terminals). Likewise, DES facilitate the storage of large amounts of energy at low cost allowing to shift energy demand out of peak hours – for example, solar heat for use during winter or conversion of surplus renewable power into heating or cooling for use during peak thermal demand.

These benefits make district energy a key measure for cities/countries that aim to achieve 100% renewable energy or carbon neutral targets. Compared with competitive technologies, district energy is frequently more cost effective – by up to 50 per cent – than individual buildings producing their own heating or cooling when there is sufficient energy demand density in a neighbourhood. Yet, for many governments, cities and municipalities responsible or interested in integrated DES, this is a new technology and, therefore, they don’t always have all the experience, know-how or technical capacity to realize DES projects.

In light of the above, the objective of this e-training is to offer insights on key aspects of district energy systems (DES) development to support key stakeholders in its planning and implementation.

At glance

  • Length: 6 modules, 6 presentations
  • Time: ~ 45 minutes per module, ~270 minutes total
  • Level: Introductory
  • Language: English

Target Audience

The proposed programme target groups and individuals from the public sector, and civil society interested in learning about DES planning. The content is suitable for audiences with no prior knowledge although it can be befitting to learners with existing knowledge and experience in the topic. Prospect participants include:

  • National and local authorities, including project managers, project sponsors and technical experts;
  • Local utilities or services;
  • Professionals involved or interested in underwriting, research, consultancy or other professional services for DES;
  • Other individuals/institutions with an interest in DES planning.

Learning Objectives

The training provides technical knowledge on why and how DES can be developed. For this purpose, participants will begin to acquaint themselves with basic concept and skills required to develop sustainable DES projects, as well as key learnings from real-world cases around the world.

After completing the course, attendants will be able to:

  • Gather an overview of key terms and concepts in DES planning
  • Describe and discuss main steps in DES planning
  • Learn how to apply skills and tools to step-by-step develop their own DES project
  • Describe a number of tools to undertake DES projects
  • Discuss opportunities and challenges in developing DES projects
  • Recognise real case studies across multiple geographies and contexts
  • Identify strengths and limitations in each of addressed tools and approaches


The content has been divided into six modules, each one addressing a key aspect of DES development:

  1. Introduction to District Energy
  2. Stakeholder Coordination for District Energy Development
  3. Energy Mapping and Data Collection to Identify Long-Term Opportunities for District Energy Systems
  4. Strategy Development: Incorporating District Energy into a Local Energy and Low-Carbon Heating and Cooling Strategies
  5. Policy Development: Integrating District Energy Systems into Urban Planning
  6. Business Models, Financing Options and Procurement of Sound Sustainable District Energy Systems

Participants can navigate through the modules based on their individual interests and level of knowledge.

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Sector: District energy