District heating system

Heating toronto’s core for
over 40 years

Enwave is the sole commercial provider of district heating to customers in downtown Toronto. We supply in excess of 626 MWth (1.8 million lbs/hr) of steam to more than 140 institutional, commercial and governmental buildings representing over 40 million square feet. Powered by three fully-modernized steam plants, our distribution system provides reliable steam service to buildings from the Lakeshore area to Queens Park through over 40 km of underground piping. Our systems are inherently flexible; Enwave’s plants can switch to run on the most available and cost-effective fuel, whether natural gas or oil.

Locally produced green heating for a local market

District energy heating is the generation and distribution of thermal energy at the community level, as rather than on a building-specific basis. Instead of using on-site infrastructure, cumbersome boilers and costly maintenance concerns, buildings connect to an external network that delivers reliable heating. To Enwave, our customers achieve a variety of benefits, including:

  • Quickly add or remove steam and cooling capacity, without additional costly investment
  • No carrying costs for unused peak or projected future chiller and boiler capacities
  • Multiple heating and cooling plants, all with back-up energy sources guarantee customer needs, seasonal variations and peak demands are met
  • System staffed and operated 24/7/365
Rate stability
  • Relief from volatile electricity and gas prices affecting steam or chilled water supply
  • Property managers can focus on running their core business, not on utility costs
Lower capital costs
  • Solutions available without high capital costs, whether additional heating, cooling, domestic hot water or steam humidification
Increased property values
  • Physically removing steam boiler plants and/or chillers frees up building space and eliminates noise from mechanical rooms
Environmental benefits
  • No concerns about stack pollution, refrigerant emissions, greenhouse gases or cooling towers
  • Assured compliance with current and future environmental legislation
improved operational safety
  • Elimination of boilers, chillers and high-pressure equipment offers increased safety, noise reductions and a better work environment for staff
Peace of mind
  • No need to budget for unpredictable repair/replacement of chillers and boilers
  • Access to the latest technologies and alternative energy sources as they come online

Reliability coupled with low-cost operation

Innovative solutions such as Combined Heat and Power and alternative fuels mean that Enwave customers will always have a state-of-the-art energy supply at the lowest possible cost. During Enwave’s entire history, there has not been a single unscheduled interruption of steam supply to our customers – a level of reliability unmatched in the marketplace.

History of district heating

A 700-year old technology – with regular updates
The oldest known district heating system dates back to the 1300s in Chaudes-Aigues Cantal, a village in France. The townsfolk devised a method of distributing warm water through wooden pipes that is still in use today. But the first commercial district heating system was created by Birdsill Holly in Lockport, New York, in 1877. Holly used a boiler as his central heat source and built a loop of steam pipes, radiators and condensate return lines. Starting with fourteen customers, within three years his system served several factories and residential customers and had grown into a three-mile loop.

The US warms to district

By the 1880s, district energy systems served a number of U.S. cities, including New York, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia and Baltimore. Those early downtown electricity systems often relied on centralized steam generation for electricity production. This enabled operators to boost profitability by offering both electricity and steam for heating.

District energy ignites in Canada

Historically, Canada has had the highest per capita energy use of developed countries, due to our harsh winter climate and relatively low-cost, abundant energy. The success of district energy across Europe led to its development in a number of Canadian communities. Canada’s first district energy system was built in London, Ontario in 1880 to serve its university, hospital and government complexes. The University of Toronto launched a district heating system in 1911, while Canada's first commercial district heating system was established in 1924 in Winnipeg's commercial core.

Heating the Great White

Canada also has one of the northernmost district energy systems. Originally called the North West Territories Power Corporation, in Fort McPherson, the company was later renamed Addri Ltd., a Gwich'in (First Nations language) word roughly translated as ‘The Light.

District Heating 101

Approximately 150 district energy systems of varying sizes are currently in operation in Canada

  • According to the International District Energy Association (IDEA), there are some 5,000 district energy systems currently in operation in the United States, heating and cooling roughly 8% of all commercial office space
  • District energy was lauded in 2001 by the U.S. National Energy Policy (NEP) for its environmental and efficiency benefits
  • The district energy system currently owned and managed by Enwave first began supplying district heating to downtown Toronto in the early 1960s and is currently the largest such system in Canada

Connecting with Enwave

Enwave focuses primarily on large commercial, government or institutional buildings located near our existing infrastructure or those requiring sufficient quantities of steam to justify creating a connection to the Enwave heating system.

Building, renovating or re-tooling

Customers typically join when a building is being constructed, redeveloped or as existing heating/cooling equipment reaches the end of its useful life. Our customers do not normally need to install dedicated, on-site equipment.

Get the full picture

To learn more about district heating and how Enwave can benefit your building or business, contact Enwave's Business Development Services.