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 to reach net zero by 2050, or sooner. 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 a Deep Lake Water Cooling System that uses water from Lake Ontario to provide cooling to over 80 buildings including critical care facilities, government buildings, data centers, universities, and commercial and residential towers, within the Toronto’s downtown core.
  • Regent Park: The redeveloped thermal network will eventually heat, cool, and provide electricity to more than 50 buildings.

Opportunities for New District Energy Systems

Please contact the Environment & Energy Division regarding development of new district energy systems, as well opportunities for connections to existing or planned systems.