Training Module: Energy mapping

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London Heat Map

To identify projects, target resources and policies and build stakeholder engagement, municipalities often undertake energy mapping to meet district energy goals. This energy mapping includes detailed information on the current and future geographical distribution of energy use at the neighbourhood and building levels, as well as on local heat and energy assets and distribution structures. This process analyses the local conditions, such as sources of excess heat, renewable heat assets (e.g. geothermal and solar), and concentrations of heat or cooling demand – often using GIS-based spatial information <ref>.

Globally, such mapping is undertaken at different scales, to differing levels of detail and with different objectives. This training module explains energy mapping, gives best practice case studies and recommends processes for developing energy mapping in your city. energy mapping can also be undertaken at a level greater than a city - for information on this please refer to National mapping.

Why should we do energy mapping?

There are numerous reasons why energy mapping is important in cities but broadly energy mapping is used to identify and promote the best means to provide heating, cooling, hot water and electricity to citizens and businesses that aligns with the city's socio-economic and environmental goals. The spatial element of energy supply is particularly crucial for district energy which is inherently local and as thermal energy (heating or cooling) should be transported over the minimum distance possible to reduce losses. Beyond this specific reasons include:

  • Identify district energy systems that can be started from highly dense areas of heat/cool demand or anchor loads
  • Minimise network length to maximise cost and energy efficiency and identify options to expand and interconnect networks in the long-term
  • Pinpoint and quantify sources of heat or cool that can be used in district energy systems including renewables, waste heat sources, free cooling etc.
  • Identify opportunities to co-develop district energy networks with other infrastructure (e.g. metro, BRTS, electricity network, road resurfacing, sewage etc.)
  • Visualise district energy potential to present an otherwise complex and abstract idea to different audiences and keep non-technical stakeholders on board.
  • Visualise the spatial relationships between different stakeholders to bring them together and support coordination. Amsterdam, for example, uses mapping as a tool to build public-private partnerships, which helps the city share the task of data collection, scenario analysis and the development of new business models (see Amsterdam).
  • Energy maps can identify how a city can best apply its land-use authority to encourage district energy (increasing urban density, mixed use neighbourhoods etc.)
  • Cities can tailor incentives and policies to unlock district energy based on different zones identified in energy mapping
  • Cities can identify different zonal approaches optimise between building efficiency


What is included in an energy map?

London Heat Map showing potential Battersea district heating network and anchor loads
Rotterdam energy map showing heat loads and heat sources

Further data and layers of analysis can be added over time, depending on the policy objectives and goals.

Energy maps for district energy can contain, among other variables, data on:

  • Existing and projected energy consumption by sector, fuel source or neighbourhood; the resulting emissions and pollution; and an understanding of the load profile
  • Present and future building density and use type (residential, commercial, etc.)
  • Sources of surplus or industrial heat supply
  • Large energy consumers and buildings with potential excess heating or cooling capacity (e.g., buildings for events such as a stadium or arena)
  • Current networks and potential network routes (see figure 2.3)
  • Potential anchor loads and their energy consumption (see figure 2.4)
  • Barriers and opportunities particular to the location related to local energy sources, distribution, transport, land use, development density and character
  • Socio-economic indicators to identify fuel-poor areas that could benefit.

Energy mapping can help cities identify specific district energy projects that could be developed, how they can best be expanded and connected in the future, and how this expansion ties into other infrastructure development.

In addition, cities can use mapping to facilitate stakeholder engagement. Energy mapping also helps raise public awareness by creating an effective visualization tool for communication <ref>.

For some cities, a city-wide energy mapping exercise may not be initially realistic due to financial and other constraints. The idea of energy mapping is that the tool is constantly evolving. As such, a city could identify high-potential areas in the energy strategy and focus on a detailed mapping exercise of these areas (e.g., the Central Business District (CBD), airports, social housing, large retail areas). Obvious anchor loads and heat/cooling sources near these areas should still be accounted for.

ToR for energy map London, Amsterdam case studies Detail on mapping in India, Belgrade, Chile,


References: Connolly et al., 2013 Persson et al., 2012