District Energy Systems in the United States Infrastructure

Open Access
Mcgee, Daniel John
Area of Honors:
Architectural Engineering
Bachelor of Architectural Engineering
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • William P Bahnfleth, Thesis Supervisor
  • Richard George Mistrick, Honors Advisor
  • district
  • energy
  • CHP
  • heating
  • cooling
  • efficiency
  • infrastructure
  • barriers
District energy is already an important part of the U.S. infrastructure, but there are still potential areas of growth where district energy may help the U.S. reduce primary energy consumption and operating costs. Technology and engineering design guidelines involving district energy systems are well-established. Despite this, political and economic barriers are hindering the future growth of district energy in the United States. District energy offers many benefits such as primary energy savings and fuel flexibility, and can be coupled with other energy efficient processes such as combined heat and power to improve the overall nation’s fuel efficiency. The barriers that are slowing growth of district energy should be considered a high priority in the nation’s future infrastructure improvements. Barriers to growth for district energy systems in the U.S. infrastructure include slow return on investment coupled with low current and projected fuel prices, lack of short-term incentives for societal benefits, and utility regulation policies.