COP 22: District Energy in Cities Initiative gathers momentum in Marrakech

The impact, progress and scale-up plans of the District Energy in Cities Initiative of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) were discussed at COP 22 on November 10, 2016. The project is a part of the Global District Energy in Cities Initiative that was launched at the 2014 New York Climate Summit, as part of SE4ALL’s Global Energy Efficiency Accelerator Platform. Twenty two countries and cities had indicated interest in joining the initiative.

Mr. Mark Radka, Chief, Technology, Climate & Energy Branch of the UNEP indicated the potential role of the DES initiative of the UNEP in acceleration of low carbon action in the post-Paris era.

The Italian Ministry for Environment, Land and Sea also announced new support for a UN Environment initiative aimed at doubling the rate of energy efficiency improvements for heating and cooling in buildings by 2030 and so reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The funding for the District Energy in Cities initiative, which sits under the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) Partnership, will initially be aimed at district energy projects in Morocco, in particularly focusing on new district cooling networks in Marrakech.

"We welcome the support of the Italian government and the UN Environment's District Energy in Cities Initiative," said Saïd Mouline, CEO of the Moroccan Agency for Energy Efficiency. "Without ambitious measures to transform our energy systems, electricity demand in Morocco could increase six fold by 2030, largely based on imported fossil fuels."

"Solutions like district energy will help us build low-carbon cities while also meeting our energy efficiency and renewable energy targets," he added.

‘Indian cities are gearing up to plan for and test the implementation of DES systems’

Speaking at the panel discussion on “Implementing the Paris Agreement – District Energy Solutions from Paris to Marrakech”, Mr. Emani Kumar, Deputy Secretary General at ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability and Executive Director at ICLEI South Asia indicated that Indian cities are gearing up to plan for and test the implementation of DES systems in India – five cities have participated in a rapid assessment activity to understand the potential of district energy systems in Indian cities. He also informed that with support from UNEP, ICLEI South Asia is now starting a deep dive assessment for Thane, Rajkot and other potential cities that will set the context for implementing a DES pilot project in one of these cities.

An innovative level of policy planning and institutional capacity from cities is required to move from political commitments to the implementation of actions. Besides this, closer collaboration between local, subnational and national actors and awareness building are also needed to ensure that appropriate stakeholders work together.

Addressing a query on whether ICLEI South Asia has been able to build the political will to act on district energy in India and how district energy ties into the local smart city strategies, he responded that a considerable growth in cooling energy demand is anticipated, fuelled by various drivers of growth and different national policies and programmes of India. Therefore, it is imperative to devise and adopt innovative means to reduce electricity demand for cooling.

ICLEI South Asia Executive Director added that there are opportunities around areas like use of municipal solid waste in district cooling technology. Activities under DES Initiative have built up a lot of political will among the local leadership and there is an interest to co-finance demonstration projects, develop policies to incentive, create awareness and incorporate it in smart cities project. Real estate developers and builders also understand the benefits associated with the adoption district cooling technology. However, we still lack awareness, data, and proof of commercial viability in local context.

Another session on November 11, 2016 witnessed discussions on Accelerating District Energy Investment in Cities and by Nordic countries. Through international programmes such as the UN Environment-led District Energy in Cities Initiative, Nordic cities, universities, private sector and national governments are supporting the scale-up of district energy worldwide. This session discussed how such international programmes are unlocking investment and supporting best practice transfer to new district energy markets.

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