The development of sustainable and innovative solutions for the production and supply of energy at district level is nowadays one of the main technical challenges. In the past, district heating and cooling networks aimed to achieve greater energy efficiency through the centralization of the energy production process but with relevant losses related to heat transport. Moving towards a higher share of renewables and lower demand of primary energy requires redesign of the energy district networks. The novel concept of cold district heating networks aims to combine the advantages of a centralized energy distribution system with low heat losses in energy supply. This combined effect is achieved through the centralized supply of water at relatively low temperatures (in the range 10–25 °C), which is then heated up by decentralized heat pumps. Moreover, cold district heating networks are also very suitable for cooling delivery, since cold water supplying can be directly used for cooling purposes (i.e., free cooling) or to feed decentralized chillers with very high energy efficiency ratio. This paper provides a preliminary literature review of existing cold district heating networks and then qualitatively analyses benefits and drawbacks in comparison with the alternatives currently used to produce heat and cold at district level, including the evaluation of major barriers to its further development.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited