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Urban-LEDS city of Warsaw: a leader in integrated energy planning

Warsaw, the capital city of Poland, is leading the way in two inter-related areas of energy efficiency opportunity: buildings and district energy systems (DES). This leadership is also helping the Urban-LEDS project.

On September 01, 2015, representatives from the City of Warsaw's Infrastructure Department shared the city's exemplary on-the-ground integrated energy planning approaches for buildings and DES, in a webinar on the UN Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) Global Energy Efficiency Accelerator, hosted by World Resources Institute (WRI), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability.  

The City of Warsaw is home to Europe’s largest district heating network, spanning an impressive 1,720 kilometres. This complex network serves 70% of Warsaw’s 1.7 million inhabitants, and 78% of the City’s heating demand. Modern district energy systems offer huge potential in many countries around the globe, also in areas where they are traditionally not considered. The case of Warsaw illustrates how to approach a large scale system. Clearly various sizes, shapes and types of district energy – for heating, cooling and/or electricity are available to fit the relevant context. The main interest is in energy efficient systems that run on clean fuels, and offer effective services.

What began as a primarily coal-based system in 1952, has since flourished under a public private partnership between the City and Veolia Energia. Today, the system includes a myriad of low-carbon, sustainable energy sources, such as the City’s Czajka Wastewater Treatment Plant, whose sewage sludge has powered the City’s street lighting since 2008.  

Warsaw’s DES offers its users substantial benefits. Aside from its resource-efficient, low-carbon nature, the system is highly cost effective - 70% less costly than conventional electricity sourced systems in Poland.

The housing sector in Warsaw consumes 65% of the city’s annual heating requirements. Realizing that buildings and energy systems are inextricably linked, the City offers a comprehensive range of programs anchored in integrated energy planning in the City’s Sustainable Energy Action Plan (SEAP).

Programs under the SEAP (2011-2020), avidly push for the acceleration of an energy-efficient building stock in both new and existing buildings.  Concrete measures include thermal retrofit schemes for existing public and social housing buildings, new passive, low-energy and energy-efficient construction and the roll out of smart girds and metering, to strengthen consumer awareness and resource-efficiency. These approaches have taken flight, as demonstrated by the city’s impressive number of LEED and BREEAM certified buildings – the highest in Eastern Europe.

The City will synthesize Warsaw’s diverse low emission development solutions in the historic Praga, where three districts will undergo a major revitalization, transforming into a “Low-Carbon Area”. The 2015 flagship project will connect 5,000 flats new and existing green buildings to district heating, benefiting 1300 residents.

To learn more about Warsaw’s integrated energy planning for building efficiency and district energy systems, watch the webinar here.