District energy is a key component of TransformTO, Toronto’s climate action plan, to reduce emissions from buildings and help the City reach its greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction target of 80% by 2050. Buildings currently generate about half of the GHG emissions in Toronto.

What is a District Energy System?

District energy systems, also called low-carbon thermal energy networks, are systems that distribute thermal energy to multiple buildings in an area or neighbourhood. These systems typically consist of a heating and cooling centre, and a thermal network of pipes connected to a group of buildings.

Key Benefits

In addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving energy resilience, District Energy Systems:

  • Deliver economies of scale, allowing large emissions reductions at a lower cost than individual building systems.
  • Enable the use of less carbon-intensive fuel sources, such as solar thermal, sewer heat, biogas, cold lake water, biomass and ground heat, and integrate them at an energy centre with virtually no impact on the connected buildings.
  • Attract private investment and support local economic development.

Existing Systems in Toronto

  • University of Toronto: Operating since 1912, the University of Toronto system serves most of the campus.
  • York University Keele Campus: Operating since the 1960s.
  • Enwave: Consists of a steam system and Deep Lake Water Cooling that uses water from Lake Ontario to cool more than 60 buildings, including Toronto City Hall, Air Canada Centre, Royal Bank Plaza, and Queen’s Park.
  • Regent Park: The redeveloped thermal network will eventually heat, cool, and provide electricity to more than 50 buildings.

Opportunities for New District Energy Systems

More than 27 locations with the potential to support new District Energy Systems have been identified in Toronto. To request a copy of the City of Toronto study, please email: desystems@toronto.ca.

District Energy-Ready Guidelines

These guidelines for building developers and owners, architects, and engineers support the design of buildings that are ready for connection to a district energy system. To request a copy, please email: desystems@toronto.ca.