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Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

This section will be updated as the project evolves.

Should you wish, please return to this page from time to time to view new content.

What is a district heating and cooling network and how does it work?

A district energy system is made up of central plants that heat buildings with hot water or steam and cool buildings with chilled water. The water circulates through underground pipes connected in a loop. This process uses less energy and is more efficient than having equipment in each individual building.

District energy systems are used around the world. According to the United Nations’ Energy Program, modern district energy systems in cities are “one of the least-cost and most efficient solutions for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and primary energy demand”.

See an illustration of a district heating system and a district cooling system

How is the Government of Canada modernizing heating and cooling plants through the Energy Services Acquisition Program (ESAP)?

The Government of Canada is transforming how it heats 80 buildings and cools 67 buildings in the National Capital Region through a modernization project. Canada is moving forward with a public-private partnership (P3) to design, build and finance the modernization by 2025, and to operate and maintain the system from 2020 to 2055. Canada will retain the ownership of all the heating and cooling plants.

Why use a public-private partnership (P3) business model?

Under the P3 model, the Government of Canada and the Private Partner have signed a project agreement that bundles design, construction, operation and maintenance obligations and clearly states roles and responsibilities.

With this model, the Government of Canada leverages the capacity, innovation and expertise of the private sector to deliver a modern, efficient, cost-effective and sustainable long-term energy services system solution. Moreover, the P3 model ensures that sufficient planning and funds are set aside for regular repair and maintenance, ensuring our assets remains in good condition and the safety of occupants and workers is maintained.

Which areas will be impacted by construction?

There will be very few impacts on pedestrians, cyclists or motorists over the period of construction. Should there be any issues related to your commute, the City of Ottawa and/or the Ville de Gatineau will be notified for widespread distribution of updates.

What measures will be put in place during the construction period to mitigate the impact of construction on neighbouring communities?

Innovate Energy will develop and assess traffic management measures and alternatives, collaborating with the City of Ottawa and/or the Ville de Gatineau. To minimize the time and extent of disruption for road users, closures will take please during off-peak times when feasible. Innovate Energy is dedicated to developing and implementing innovative construction and traffic management strategies to ensure safety and mobility for the public.

Will the modernized system use renewable / low carbon / zero-carbon energy sources? Is the system compatible with net zero energy?

Cooling will be powered by electricity, which has very low carbon content. The Government of Canada will be using 100% clean energy by 2025. In addition, the system will use river water cooling which is renewable and will reduce our energy needs overall. So our cooling will be carbon neutral.

For heating, Innovate Energy has committed to building and operating a highly efficient natural gas system. Our goal is to eventually reduce our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the district energy system to virtually zero by 2030.

Finally, we are working with individual building operators to accommodate their plans to add renewable energy, and to be able to receive carbon neutral energy from a variety of sources such as geo-exchange and waste heat.

Will this system be expanded to other federal government buildings or non-federal government buildings?

The goal of the Government of Canada is to make it possible for other buildings to connect to the district energy system once the modernization has been completed.

Has the low-temperature hot-water heating technology introduced by this project been tested or applied by other countries with climates similar to Canada?

The decision to apply the low-temperature hot-water technical solution was based in part on experience and advice from various providers in other countries, some of whom have been operating district energy systems with low temperature hot water for more than twenty years. Many of these countries, notably Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Norway, have seasonal climates very similar to those experienced in the National Capital Region.

Which group in the Government of Canada is responsible for this project?

The group responsible for the management of this public-private partnership (P3) is the Energy Services Acquisition Program (ESAP) which is part of Real Property Branch (RPS) within Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC).

What consultations have been done with stakeholders?

ESAP, the group within PSPC that is responsible for managing this project from the government side, has been engaging internal and external stakeholders for many years. This included several market soundings to better understand what services were available in the marketplace.

In 2014, ESAP reached out to private sector building owners and operators in downtown Ottawa to raise awareness about the options for modernization of the system and to gauge interest in connecting to the system in the future.

During these consultations ESAP learned that there is interest in considering options for heating and cooling buildings, but that the key issues are: 1) cost competitiveness; 2) reduction of greenhouse gas emissions; 3) redundancy and reliability; and 4) quality customer service.

Since 2016, ESAP has participated in a number of community consultations on Energy Evolution, a program run by the City of Ottawa which has a goal to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the community by 100 percent by 2050 and from City operations by 100 percent by 2040. At these sessions ESAP has shared information about its district energy system.

Beginning in 2017, ESAP consulted extensively with the NCC on the proposed design for the Energy Services Modernization (ESM) project.

Within ESAP there is the User Building Conversion Plan (UBCP) team. They regularly consult with tenants and property facilities managers during the planning and construction phases of the building conversions that will allow each building to connect to the modernized system. Once plans are put in place to convert a building from steam or high temperature hot water to low temperature water (the standard for the modernized district energy system), the UBCP team meets with property managers on a regular basis to report on project status and identify issues early on in the process to mitigate any issues that may arise due to construction. In addition, the meetings are used to raise awareness about the benefits of the conversion process and to ensure that any disruptions during conversion are well-managed.

Will this work have any impact on heritage properties?

All work completed on heritage properties will be done in a way that maintains the integrity of the building and responds to the core needs of occupants. The work will not have a deleterious impact on heritage properties.

What buildings are served by the existing District Energy System?

Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) is responsible for providing heating to 80 buildings in the National Capital Region (total floor space of 1.83M m² which houses more than 50,000 public servants) and cooling services to 67 of these buildings (total floor space of 1.73M m²). PSPC operates five central heating and cooling plants (CHCPs) and four distribution networks. The five CHCPs were designed and built from 1916 to 1971.

Who is Innovate Energy?
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