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Building a Safer, More Cost Effective, Carbon-Neutral District Energy System

With the Energy Services Acquisition Program (ESAP), the National Capital Region joins cities like Paris, Stockholm, and Copenhagen in modernizing and decarbonizing their district energy systems. DESs are an efficient and environmentally sustainable way of providing heating and cooling to buildings connected together by a network of underground pipes.

Eighty (80) buildings, including the Parliament Buildings, are currently connected to the federal government’s National Capital Region District Energy System (NCR DES). Through ESAP, the Government of Canada is taking steps to completely overhaul and modernize the NCR DES, which was built between 50 and 100 years ago and uses outdated technologies. Many of its components are at the end of their service life.

In 2019, Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) partnered with Innovate Energy to undertake this work. In 2021, the project was ranked the 23rd largest infrastructure project in Canada.

From 2019 to 2026, Innovate Energy will design, build, and convert the existing steam/high temperature system to a more energy-efficient low temperature hot water heating system with electric chillers for cooling. Once the construction period is completed, Innovate Energy will continue to operate and maintain the new system through to 2055.

Signature elements of the project include making the existing heating and cooling system safer and less energy consuming by:

  • converting the system from steam/high temperature to low temperature hot water for heating;
  • decommissioning old heating and cooling plants;
  • building new facilities and upgrading existing ones in Ottawa and Gatineau, including the Cliff plant near the Parliament; and
  • switching from steam to electric chillers.

Construction began in 2020 to incorporate modern, highly efficient technology and infrastructure that will reduce costs, increase capacity, and decrease energy demands on the network. ESAP’s modernization efforts will result in the significant greening of the DES’s heating and cooling requirements. By 2030, new sustainable energy sources will be introduced so that the entire NCR DES is in a position to be carbon-neutral.

ESAP is made up of two key stages:

This project represents one of North America’s first conversion of a large public district energy network from steam to a low temperature hot water electrical system with electric chillers for cooling. By 2030, the National Capital Region District Energy System will be in a position to be carbon-neutral!
This map shows the modernized National Capital Region District Energy System once construction is completed in 2026. The circles indicate new or modernized energy centres and the dotted green lines represent the underground network of pipes used to distribute heating and cooling to connected buildings.