District Energy – An Important Building Block

Spectacular sea front developments are now taking shape in the city of Helsingborg, and district cooling is one of the corner stones.

District cooling is attractive to developers, as it is a convenient service that contributes to the environmental sustainability of the buildings and the area. The benefits of district cooling becomes evident when looking at profile buildings where roof tops and terraces are used as outdoor restaurants and recreational areas for conference guests and tenants. If district cooling wasn’t available there would be noisy and bulky equipment like cooling towers, compressors and fans installed in these areas, disturbing the peace and ruining the views and spaces.

District cooling as corner stone in new sea front developments

Spectacular sea front developments are now taking shape in the city of Helsingborg, and district cooling is one of the corner stones. “These developments are very good examples of how district energy contributes to a sustainable society, and how we at Devcco contribute with our business management services”, says Joakim Nilsson, who has been the lead consultant on the project.

The two sea front developments in the city centre of Helsingborg are in the final stages of construction. The largest development is the Ocean harbour (“Oceanhamnen”) which is part of the most ambitious city development project in the history of the city called H+. The Ocean harbour will be a new district with housing, offices, restaurants and trade near the water, where everything is built with a clear focus on the environment and sustainability.

The other central development area is the Northern harbour where the steam ferry site is the last stage in the development. When the whole area is ready, there will be housing, a congress and a hotel facility, walking paths along the quay and a completely new park. In this area, the congress and hotel facility SeaU, which opened its doors in February this year, stands out with its iconic architecture. At the top floor there is a rooftop bar and there is also an outdoor pool at the lower volume between the hotel and the congress facilities.

“Our role in this has been as advisors and interim management to Öresundskraft, which is the local energy company and supplier of district energy”, says Joakim Nilsson, partner at Devcco. “We have participated first in the re-engineering of the district cooling business and then in the marketing and sales process of the upgraded district cooling product”.

The business re-engineering made it possible to meet the growing demand for cooling and air conditioning in time for the various city developments, but also for existing customers with increasing demand. An important outcome of the re-engineering is the ability to provide a sustainable product by utilising sea water cooling and surplus heat to produce the cooling. The new district cooling has since been awarded with two international prizes for its environmental benefits and innovative solutions.

“Since then we have also provided business management, market assessment, sales support and other services working as an integrated part of our customer’s team”, says Joakim.

“We really like working this close since it helps us being pro-active and bringing value to our customers based on our long experience from managing and developing district cooling businesses.”

District cooling requires more than a technical focus

Typical challenges in developing and re-engineering district cooling are getting access and permits to sustainable sourcing on one hand, and demonstrating that the business is competitive and profitable to the main stakeholders on the other. Including a consultant, who is experienced in both fields and knows the pitfalls and what aspects that need special attention to deliver successful projects and businesses, can be the answer to overcome these typical challenges. “Too often, development of district cooling is only viewed as technology projects where engineering gets all the attention, and the organisations miss out on working with a wider approach. The guiding stars in business cases should be sustainability and profitability so you are able to take on all, not just the technical, challenges in each case”, says Joakim.

Devcco works closely with the customers in managing internal and external decision processes which includes both a technical and business approach. By doing so, the decision makers will have relevant and accurate information during every phase, and they will be aware of the risks and possibilities ahead. Devcco also contributes in making the end users of district cooling understand the value of the service as compared to their business as usual alternatives.

It can be time consuming and complex to secure the energy sources and permits that are often necessary to successfully implement sustainable and profitable district cooling. Environmentally sustainable solutions are a key success factor, and this also means making sure that potential side effects are avoided. In many cases, environmental impact assessments are required where it can be benefitial to have the guidance from a consultant, who is able to coordinate with expertise from various fields. “Access to natural and industrial sources are not always free, and here we have gained a lot of experience from projects in many locations and countries in negotiating with resource owners”, says Joakim.

“At Devcco, we strongly believe that district cooling can play an important role in the development of other urban developments and city renewal projects as well.”

“We know it as a fact, from our participation in continental Europe and from mega projects in the middle east and the North Africa region, but there are many promising locations in the Scandinavian countries as well. In Denmark and Norway where district cooling is just about to take off at a large scale we see a great potential”, says Lars Hargö, CEO at Devcco.

About Devcco

Devcco is set out to develop projects and to provide services in the district energy sector worldwide. Located in Stockholm, Sweden and Fredericia, Denmark with strong local and global networks, Devcco aims to provide technical and business advise to a wide range of clients. The founding partners of Devcco have a collective district energy and energy business operations experience of more than 70 years, and have been the driving forces in several of the worlds largest and most pioneering district cooling and multi utility developments for the last two decades. The mission is to support a continued expansion of District Energy by improving performance of existing businesses.

Photo:  Helsingborgs stad/Horizone Studio

About Öresundskraft

Öresundskraft is a municipally owned utility organisation in Helsingborg providing energy services for the Nordic market. This includes sales, production and distribution of electricity, district heating, district cooling and gas. Öresundskraft also provides infrastructure for communication services under a separate brand.

The organisation has very high sustainability ambitions, and the energy strategy is built on four pillars: 1. Minimising end use of energy, 2. Minimising losses in all stages, 3. Making use of rest products and recovering energy, 4. Adding renewable energy.

District cooling has been supplied to a variety of customers in the city centre, since 1999. Customers include large users such as a pharmaceutical production facility and a major hospital together with an array of offices and other commercial buildi

About H+

According to the city of Helsingborg, H+ is the largest city renewal project in Helsingborg in modern times. By 2035, the old harbour and industrial areas, around one million square meters in size, will evolve into a mixed city.

A blue-green passage is being planned and will bind together the city districts and create areas for recreation and meetings.The four districts will provide space for 5000 residencies, office buildings, schools and other municipal services. Shops and restaurants, as well as several meeting places both inside and outside, will also be built. It should be attractive, comfortable and smart to live here, with short distances to daily services.

The closeness to the central station (Helsingborg C) in the north and Ramlösa station, along with good walking and cycling paths, will make it possible for many citizens to prioritize sustainable journeys.

About Oceanhamnen

Oceanhamnen will be a new district with housing, offices, restaurants and trade near the water. Everything is built with a clear focus on the environment and sustainability.

A walking path along the quays will be an extension of the citys central quay promenade, while a pedestrian and bicycle bridge between Oceanhamnen and Helsingborg C will make it easy to get between Oceanhamnen and the city center.

Oceanhamnen will be a district built on islands, with qualities beyond what is expected. The area complements the city center with attractive, waterfront housing and offices. Meeting places along quays, in squares and in parks help to create life and movement in the area.

Oceanhamnen will accommodate four residential blocks with approximately 350 homes. Three office buildings with exciting architecture at the tip of the pier will provide space for 32,000 square meters of business premises and service near the water. In the area there will also be a quay walk, a square, a park in the dry dock and a canal through the pier where small boats can pass.

There is a vision of creating an artificial island in the Ocean Basin, between the two piers. A final decision on the island has not yet been made, but the possibilities are being investigated by the City Building Administration.

The City goal in the development of Oceanhamnen has from the beginning been to ensure an economically, environmentally and socially sustainable urban development.

As part of this work, Oceanhamnen will have a completely new and unique sewage system. The new system collects and uses the waste as a raw material to produce biogas and plant nutrients.

About Norra hamnen and SeaU

The steam ferry site is the last stage in the development of the North Harbor area. When the whole area is ready, there will be housing, a congress and hotel facility, walking paths along the quay and a completely new park.

There will be 150 homes and an underground garage, a new park with space for both play and various events. It will be a place with fantastic views, green areas and water play. There will be a walking path along the quay with benches and hammocks, as well as a wooden deck that can partly be used for outdoor dining.

According to Jais Arkitekter who designed the Hotel and conference facility SeaU, the main idea for the facility was to create a building that is always accessible to the public. Therefore, they chose to place the large congress hall the city wanted upstairs. In this way, the ground floor became an extension of the square: A large, public area with cafés, restaurants and a foyer with the possibility of exhibitions and other events. The house is slightly indented from the water towards the promenade, and through external stairs, ramps and terraces it is possible to move up on and around the house, even if you are not a conference participant or hotel guest.