District heating and cooling is a sustainable and holistic system built on resource efficiency. By converting waste heat from industries, the underground or housing, used energy can be reprocessed and reused to satisfy the local heat and cooling demand in a city. Sweden has one of the world’s most integrated and developed systems for district heating and cooling, making it a front runner within the field.

District heating was originally developed as a complement to the energy supply in the cities. It was gradually remodeled and expanded to solve local environmental issues and oil dependency within the sector. With the help of government-funded research, oil-free solutions were developed and reinforced, altogether making district heating and cooling systems more versatile, laying the ground for sustainable options concerning the choice of fuel.

As fuels such as natural gas have a history of high taxation in Sweden, the district heating and cooling system remains one of the leading systems within the national field. Policy reforms and higher environmental demands led to both additional progress in the field and to further integration of district heating and cooling into the national structure in Swedish cities. Characterized by strong competitiveness and a highly developed and well-integrated structure, district heating and cooling is unique both in terms of extension and sustainable features.

The future of district heating lies in the ways in which it is produced. In the early days of the technique, the systems were to a great extent dependent on the temperature of the water going into the system and therefore the way in which the water was heated. Thanks to improved isolation methods, more energy-efficient housing and new techniques of heat transferring, we will be able to use more low-grade heat, such as residue heat from industries and housing in district heating systems, in the future. This means that fewer full-scale water heating plants will be used in the future, and instead, smarter ways of reusing already produced heat and energy.

Huge potential in district heating and cooling lies in making heating and cooling of residential and commercial buildings more energy-efficient. Today, roughly 50 percent of the energy produced is used for local heating and cooling. If this could replace traditional heating and cooling globally, vast amounts of energy could be saved worldwide.

Related Best Practices

Gothenburg Smart District Cooling

The City of Gothenburg in Sweden uses a district cooling system powered by the cool flows from Göta älv.

Science heats the city

In the new city district Brunnshög in Lund the world’s largest LTDH network is being built. The network is based almost exclusively on fossil free surplus heat recovered from the MAX IV facility.


IntegrCity aims at developing and implementing a decision-support platform focusing on planning and designing integrated energy networks and further infrastructure developments. While city planners and energy companies can take advantage of the platform while planning energy supply infrastructure, the projects have also tested different energy supply and energy storage solutions both in Sweden and in Switzerland.

District heating and cooling – A more sustainable energy production

With a water-filled rock chamber beneath Kungsholmen in Stockholm, the energy company Stockholm Exergi has been able to substantially increase capacity in the city’s network for district cooling. The ordinary cooling plants in buildings can be phased out, and both high electricity needs and the risk of leakage of ozone-depleting substances will decrease along with them.

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