Some of the best opportunities to advance green buildings and sustainable development occur at a neighborhood scale. Connecting multiple properties into shared utility systems can significantly reduce costs while improving environmental performance.
In the Pearl District, a single cooling system serves a variety of green buildings on several adjacent blocks. Similarly, institutional campuses throughout Portland benefit from shared heating systems.
What is District Energy?
In a shared district energy system, one or more centralized plants heat and/or cool individual buildings through a network of underground water pipes. In the right application, district energy improves:
- energy security,
- flexibility to use a variety of technologies and fuels,
- environmental performance,
- cost savings,
- price stability, and
- economic development.
Communities throughout the world are developing district energy systems in response to rising energy costs and growing concerns about climate change.
What is the City's role?
District energy is a key strategy in Portland’s Climate Action Plan 2009. Deep reductions in carbon emissions are reachable by improving energy efficiency and enabling multiple buildings to utilize more renewable fuel sources and technological advancements. By 2012, the City plans to establish at least one new district energy system. To support this effort, the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability funded a business-case feasibility study for the North Pearl District.
In 2011, the City worked with the Portland Sustainability Institute to create a series of background and research documents for key opportunity sites in Portland:
- District Energy Frequently Asked Questions
- North Pearl District Energy Analysis Summary
- Rose Quarter District Energy Analysis Summary
- South Waterfront District Energy Analysis Summary
- Streamlining Portland’s District Energy Regulations
- Development, Ownership & Governance Models
Additional neighborhood-scale research is available in the Portland Sustainability Institute’s 2010 Background and Screening Report, Neighborhood Infrastructure: Doing More with Less.