What is district energy?

District energy corresponds to the generation of thermal energy, obtained through one or multiple generation plants, that distribute hot or cold water through an underground pipes network to a group of end users (customers) within a specific area, thus supplying them with heating, domestic hot water, and/or cooling services. Some systems connect a few buildings, while others connect hundreds or thousands of buildings of different types throughout a city.

District energy encompasses the concepts of “district heating” and “district cooling”, being the first best known in our country. District heating supplies heating and/or domestic hot water to the group of buildings connected to the network, while district cooling supplies cooling and/or air conditioning to the buildings.

Components of a district energy system:

  • One or more thermal energy generation plants that can use local, and renewable energy sources through different technologies, or use waste heat from nearby industries;
  • A distribution network for transporting the thermal energy, typically in the form of hot or cold water, that connects the various buildings that will receive the service;
  • The connection of end users and delivery of district energy service through: a heat or cold transfer station located in each building, which connects the district network to the internal installation in the buildings and transfers thermal energy to end users; a distribution network within each building; and equipment for harnessing and using the thermal energy like radiators

Low thermal
energy costs

District energy has multiple benefits for the different stakeholders (end-users, energy developers, local governments, and of course, the country). The benefits can be categorized into economic, environmental, and social.

For more information about the benefits of District Energy for users in this Guide (in Spanish).

District Energy

How to connect to a district energy system?

While it isn’t yet a widespread reality in Chile, it’s expected that in the short and medium term, large-scale district energy projects will begin to be deployed in the country, allowing the development of the market and massification of the technology. If district energy networks are available for connection, currently or in the future, existing users can be classified into two types of connection: those with a centralized heating or cooling system and those without.


Within co-ownership projects, there is an opportunity for the real estate sector to enhance the value proposal to end-users with highly efficient and sustainable solutions to supply heating, domestic hot water, and/or cooling to the buildings.

The technologies exist, have been improving for decades, and have been adapting to the needs of new urban developments. For more information on mature technologies and how to connect to a District Energy System, visit this Guide (in Spanish).

Projects within a Co-Ownership: correspond to projects that supply thermal energy to a series of buildings (residences or others), where the layout of the thermal energy distribution is entirely included within private property. They generally correspond to smaller-scale projects that are built in conjunction with the construction of co-owned buildings.

Projects using national assets for public use: correspond to projects that supply thermal energy to a series of mixed buildings where the layout of the thermal underground network uses or crosses assets for public use such as streets, highways, sidewalks, urban squares, etc. These projects are generally larger in scale and present other challenges, such as negotiating with different clients and applying for concession permits.