Skip to content


District heating

District cooling

District energy

The future of district energy

Realising a strong global potential.

District energy systems are expected to grow in years to come due to increased urbanisation,technological advancements, stronger focus on resource efficiency and consumers’ increasing demand for comfort.

Growing demand ahead

The use of district energy varies widely across countries. This is only in part due to the given circumstances such as the climate, urban density and energy resources available. Differences in regulatory frameworks, building traditions and energy policies also explain the strong variation in the uptake
of district heating. In Europe, according to Euroheat & Power, there are approximately 6,000 district heating systems which meet 12 per cent of Europe’s heat demand.

The share of district heating in total heat delivery in EU can increase for several reasons. The level of urbanisation in EU is expected to grow to 75 per cent in 2020 and almost 84 per cent in 2050, expanding the market for district heating which operates most efficiently in densely populated areas. Even in Denmark, where currently more than 60 per cent of households get their heat supply through district heating, analyses show that it is economically feasible to increase the market share. The potential lies both in increased urban densification and wider use of district heating in existing supply areas.

EU’s Energy Efficiency Directive obligates Member States to carry out a comprehensive assessment of the potential for the application of high-efficiency cogeneration and efficient district heating and cooling. The European Commission argues that the share of heat produced from high-efficiency combined heat and power (CHP), as well as high-efficiency district heating and cooling, needs to be further promoted by member states. Thus, EU’s drive towards decarbonizing the economy is spurring a focus on district heating. Member states are currently drawing up more national heat maps and action plans for district heating.

Download our publication on district energy

This article is part of our publication ‘District Energy’

Download now

4th generation district heating

Technological advancements favour the use of district heating. The temperature of the water required in a district heating system is becoming even lower, thereby increasing energy efficiency. This provides economic rationale for more use of surplus heat from industry and for the use of thermal energy  storage. Buildings are expected to become still more energy-efficient in the future, thus having a smaller demand for heat per square meter. However, the demand for  space and comfort is increasing, whichincreases the demand for heat. Therefore, efficient low-temperature district heating
solutions will play an increasing role in the future.

4th generation district heating builds on the long experience with district heating focusing on integrating all the available energy sources. It integrates still more renewable energy and surplus heat from various sources. Energy storage and dynamic interaction with producers and consumers ensures further flexibility and efficiency in the system. By using water at lower temperatures and still better pipe systems, heat losses are minimised and district heating becomes feasible in still more places. The modern principles of 4th generation district heating are applied today both in new-built district heating systems and when retrofitting and expanding existing ones.

District cooling

The demand for cooling is far higher than for heating on a global scale. Current practices of applying individual cooling solutions to each building, or each room, is expected to be replaced by district cooling solutions. District cooling works according to the same principles as district heating. It provides better energy efficiency, frees up much-needed space in urban areas and provides easier operations of cooling systems for users.

The market for district cooling is currently smaller than for district heating  and it is mainly used in commercial buildings. It is already growing rapidly and is expected to keep growing in the future – both in temperate countries and even faster in warmer countries where the strongest growth inpopulation, building mass, income levels and thereby cooling demand is expected.

You should consider reading

District cooling
District energy
District heating


Wind energy


10 examples of green solutions from Denmark in 2022

3 January 2023
Many Danish companies provide solutions that can help drive the global transition to a sustainable, low-carbon, resource-efficient society. Find inspiration in ten of the most popular green solutions from Danish companies published on our webpage in 2022.




5 Minutes to Everything

2 August 2016
The plans for changing the old port area in Nordhavnen into an attractive neighbourhood with no less than 40,000 residents is on the drawing board and will be completed 30-50 years from now.