There has been considerable information and press releases relating to District Energy Networks in Guelph. One is being developed in the Hanlon Business Park with a second one in downtown Guelph. The essence of the concept is to utilize a central heat generating facility with natural gas fired steam/ hot water boilers to generate heat that is piped to local user buildings via an underground loop of insulated pipes A similar loop can exist for cooling. The mayor and administration would like you to believe that Guelph is at the leading edge of this concept in North America.
An article in the Guelph Tribune “New condo a landmark first for district energy initiative” (Trib P19 28 Aug 14) was all political fluff with no hard facts. The statement “..an important step in Guelph’s plans to build North America’s first city wide district energy network…” is a blatant ignoring of historical facts. Circa 1912 (yes, over 100 years ago) the University of Manitoba had a central heating plant that piped hot water/steam to campus buildings for heating via insulated pipes in pedestrian tunnels between the buildings. I walked through those tunnels in the Winnipeg winters as an undergrad mechanical engineering student in the mid to late 1960’s. Similarly, the city of Winnipeg had district heating networks dating from the 1920’s. Members of Guelph council and the administration didn’t have to take a trip to Europe to find out about district energy networks.
What is missing from the article and any public disclosures is: who pays for the energy losses, both thermodynamic and piping, as either heated or chilled water is circulated from the central facility to user buildings and back? Who pays the capital costs of the central facility and piping loops? Has the city managed to convince the condo developer /owners to pay for heat content at the central plant before it is piped to the user site and thus absorb heating and piping efficiency losses? Under typical energy contracts using natural gas or electricity etc. to provide heat to an individual building, the energy is metered at the user building. For some reason I suspect that Envida Community Energy Inc., a Guelph Hydro subsidiary, will be absorbing the energy losses between the central generating facility and the user building. Does anybody in the council or administration know if this is correct and what this potential multi-decade ongoing cost will be? Why should I, as a resident of ward 6, subsidize a downtown condo owner or commercial manufacturing plant etc. in the Hanlon Business Park with their heating and cooling bill through Envida and Guelph Hydro? Why do I not have a warm feeling from the mayor’s announcement that the system provides ” .. cost competitive heating and cooling..”.. to the city taxpayers? Do I sense a hand on my wallet, again?