Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is one of the world’s most popular green building certifications. Most governments encourage its adoption to shift toward carbon-efficient cities.
By simply connecting to Veolia’s district energy system powered by combined heat and power (CHP), new buildings in Boston and Cambridge can earn up to 18 LEED points with significantly less upfront capital costs. We talked with Veolia’s Roderick Fraser to understand how this works.
First of all, how is it possible for business owners in Boston and Cambridge to earn up to 18 LEED credits without significant upfront capital expenditure?
They can tie into Veolia’s district energy network. In Boston and Cambridge, our district energy network is powered by CHP – an extremely energy efficient technology that generates thermal energy in the form of steam for heating and cooling as well as electricity from a single energy source.
Through a “Green Steam” energy service agreement, building owners can achieve additional LEED credits – as much as 9 more efficiency points than using on-site boilers. If you also use steam for cooling, you can earn up to 18 points with minimal capital investment.
"Connecting to Veolia’s district energy system for heating and cooling earns up to 18 points without capital investment"
Right, but how does it earn so many LEED credits?
Powering our district energy network with CHP means that instead of discarding our waste heat like a traditional boiler, steam or power plant, we use this thermal energy to generate steam. Business owners in Boston and Cambridge can incorporate the electrical efficiency benefits of this cogenerated steam in their LEED calculations since they are using less input energy for steam consumed.
Let’s backtrack. What is district energy? And how does CHP compare to traditional energy alternatives?
District energy is the production of energy at a central plant, which is then distributed to the community through an underground system of pipes. The idea is as old as Thomas Edison. The United Nations Environment Program called district energy “the most effective approach” to transitioning to sustainable energy. With a CHP system, waste heat is utilized and recycled into useful thermal energy. This increases energy efficiency by up to 80% and reduces emissions.
What’s the maximum number of LEED points you can earn by connecting to a district energy system?
If you’re connected to a district energy system that uses cogeneration (like in Boston or Cambridge) and you use steam for winter heat and summer cooling, you can get all 18 LEED points using this method.
Are there additional costs for connecting to Veolia’s district energy system in Boston and Cambridge?
Actually, the upfront costs for connecting to our district energy system are significantly lower than putting in your own boiler plant. Boiler plants are costly to construct and maintain. We take that headache and O&M expense off our customers’ shoulders.
Okay, but doesn’t district energy cost more than steam generated from a boiler in a building?
No, that’s not true in Boston and Cambridge – although some people still think so, especially if they’re not factoring in the CHP. We’re burning natural gas at our CHP plant and reusing thermal energy to produce “Green Steam,” so we can be more aggressive in our pricing.
"the upfront costs for connecting to our district energy system are significantly lower than putting in your own boiler plant"
When customers connect to us, they don’t need to maintain a large boiler plant. This creates additional savings from avoided maintenance costs and frees up building space previously occupied by mechanical equipment. In many cases, this is a major cost saving for the customer and results in more leasable space
Can you get LEED points by installing a boiler?
You can get four points by putting in boilers, but to get more points, you’ll need to make additional investments. Connecting to Veolia’s district energy system for heating and cooling earns up to 18 points without capital investment, plus it produces the environmental and cost saving benefits I mentioned earlier.
Is it difficult to apply for LEED credits?
Although it can be a complicated process, Veolia helps facilitate the paperwork and efficiency calculations.
Why is this good for the cities of Boston and Cambridge?
By supporting district energy and CHP, they demonstrate that residents understand the major environmental advantage for going with cogenerated district steam. The good news for companies is that they can also achieve LEED credits and save money!