eSteam™: a cost-effective, carbon-free renewable energy solution to decarbonize your commercial building

Commercial buildings represent the highest source of carbon emissions in major cities, making them one of the most important targets in urban decarbonization. eSteam™ is a unique solution that can address this challenge head-on and inexpensively decarbonize healthcare, life sciences, universities and commercial buildings with ease.

Accelerate decarbonization with eSteam™

Vicinity’s renewable thermal energy product will help you accelerate the decarbonization of your building and our communities. Our solution is turn-key. 

eSteam™ reduces the need for you to invest in new onsite energy infrastructure to meet your sustainability goals. By connecting to the district energy system, you eliminate the need to make significant investments to decarbonize your building’s thermal energy load—we’re doing that for you. Vicinity will leverage and build upon existing infrastructure, including our existing network of steam pipes, electric substations, and transmission lines, and deploy the capital needed to rapidly reduce our carbon emissions.

For our cities, Vicinity’s eSteam™ provides a way to cleanly heat and cool urban buildings—reducing the need for natural gas boilers that create unregulated gas stacks and unmonitored carbon emissions—improving overall air quality in neighborhoods.

eSteam™ is the first renewable, carbon-free thermal energy product in the United States, offering maximum flexibility and superior environmental benefits.

eSteam™ benefits:

  • Carbon-free – eSteam™ is carbon-free, so you can meet your sustainability goals and avoid looming carbon taxes.
  • Total flexibility – You nominate how much eSteam™ you want annually and select the renewable electricity source to generate your eSteam™ based on your budget and sustainability objectives.
  • Affordability – eSteam™ is the most cost-effective, affordable option to green your building compared to alternatives, like electric boilers in your building. Vicinity’s access to transmission level rates gives district energy an economic advantage over onsite equipment.
  • Avoid carbon fees and fines – Many cities in the U.S. have implemented or are considering laws that will lower greenhouse gas emissions in buildings. Oftentimes, these policies will carry hefty fines for non-compliance. eSteam™ is guaranteed carbon- free, giving you peace of mind that your building will be green, without costing you more green.
  • Maximum reliability and resiliency – Join the many customers who choose Vicinity’s district energy heating and cooling products for maximum reliability and resiliency.
  • Low capital investments – To access the benefits of eSteam™, you don’t need to invest in costly capital projects and you can avoid expensive building retrofits. Decarbonize your thermal energy footprint by simply connecting to Vicinity’s district energy network.
  • Certifications – Gain potential points for LEED® and ENERGY STAR® certifications to demonstrate your buildings’ commitment to sustainability.

Customers benefit from carbon-free eSteam™ generated with renewable electricity.

How eSteam™ works

By installing electric boilers at our central facilities and procuring renewable power from the grid, we can offer carbon-free steam to meet your buildings’ thermal energy needs. Vicinity can purchase renewable power on your behalf—such as wind, solar and hydro—at transmission level rates, allowing us to keep your costs down.

Coupled with other technologies like industrial-scale heat pumps and thermal storage, our goal is to offer you the most affordable, flexible thermal energy product that lowers carbon footprints, improves air quality and meets sustainability goals.

Vicinity’s eSteam™ is the first renewable, carbon-free thermal energy product in the United States, offering you maximum flexibility and superior environmental benefits.

Lock in with eSteam™ today to decarbonize your buildings and avoid looming carbon fees. To learn more about eSteam™ email our energy experts at info@vicinityenergy.us.

2023 Cambridge Chamber of Commerce Visionary Awards

Vicinity Energy has been recognized by the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce for its commitment to innovation in the launch of eSteam™, the first renewable, carbon-free thermal energy product in the United States. Vicinity and IQHQ team members talk about the impact eSteam™ is making in Boston and Cambridge in this video highlighting Visionary award winners.

District energy in a climate-uncertain future

With climate change and its clear and present danger upon us, communities must act to embrace resilient energy infrastructure and prepare for a future in a very uncertain climate. Extreme weather events, like the unprecedented cold weather in the midwestern and southern regions of the United States in February 2021, and Superstorm Sandy in 2012, have devastated people living in these areas, presented major challenges to the nation’s energy systems, and driven resilience to the forefront of national conversation – not to mention the extensive financial response required to recover from these events.

While pursuing new energy technologies and solutions is critical to our eventual success as a society, we must balance this future-looking approach with an emphasis on strengthening existing infrastructure and cost-effectively protecting citizens and current energy networks. District energy is a proven energy delivery framework that is resilient, affordable, scalable, and already utilized by grids across the country. With underground carbon steel pipes, insulated and encased in concrete, and fed by central energy facilities, district energy is, by its very construction, extremely resilient. It has the added benefit of enabling a rapid shift to renewable sources and other green energy approaches. Based on these key attributes, district energy is a key component of the solution to our climate-uncertain challenges.

What we’re up against

Since the 1980s, there has been a significant increase in the number and severity of U.S. power outages due to extreme weather. February’s unprecedented winter outages in Texas are just the latest example. Millions of Texans were without power or heat when about half of Texas’s electricity generation was offline. As a result, fuel supplies were slowed by frozen natural gas lines, some towns had to turn off their water supply, and carbon-monoxide exposure skyrocketed when many Texans turned to home generators to keep the heat and lights on. Last year was a record-setting one for wildfires, with over 10 million acres burned nationwide, leading to $20 billion in costs and damages. A decade ago, in 2012, Hurricane Sandy left much of New York City without electricity for days, in addition to causing flooding that shut down power plants and fuel refineries. 117 people were killed, and 8.5 million Americans were without power.

In addition to severe disruptions of everyday life and threats to the health and welfare of residents, these events are costing Americans dearly. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, climate disasters have cost the United States over $1.875 trillion since 1980. The United States cannot afford to continue to operate such vulnerable utility infrastructure, especially as the situation continues to escalate. Americans are paying in tax dollars, and – more importantly – in lives, every moment that goes by without the prioritization of resilience in our nation’s energy infrastructure.

Many communities have already officially recognized the need to put energy resilience at the very center of civic planning. For example, in 2020, Maryland launched the Resilient Maryland Program to fund innovation around energy resilience and distributed energy resources. The Massachusetts Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance has a specific resilience program in place to protect key infrastructure from the effects of climate change. And last fall, the city of Philadelphia hired its first Chief Resilience Officer; someone whose entire mission is to ensure that the city’s resources can withstand the impacts of climate change.

How district energy models resilience now

While acknowledging the problem is certainly the key first step of progress, and research toward future improvements is more than necessary, what can communities do right now to protect citizens from the climate disasters that are sure to come at an increasing rate? One solution is district energy.

District energy uses a centrally located facility to generate thermal energy – heat, hot water, or chilled water – for a number of nearby buildings that form an “energy district.” Microgrids, such as can be found at colleges, hospitals, airports, and office parks, are examples of district energy arrangements. District energy offers multiple benefits to its users, including freedom from asset ownership and maintenance and corresponding costs, and price stability. Most important to this issue, however, is that district energy provides energy islanding capabilities that offer far greater resilience than broader-reaching conventional utilities.

For example, during Hurricane Sandy, Princeton University relied on its own microgrid, allowing the university to maintain power and resources while the rest of the city was offline. In fact, Princeton was able to offer emergency workers and the general public a place to warm up, charge their phones, and access the internet, since they were not reliant upon the town’s non-functioning energy supply.

How is district energy so resilient? One major factor is that the generation facilities are often located in urban centers, within or nearby to the grids they serve, as opposed to energy needing to be transported over hundreds of miles from a major power plant. These microgrids can then operate autonomously, even if those around them are without resources.

In addition to proximity, many district energy systems are able to ‘blackstart’ – that is, they can restore operations independently without relying on an external source to recover from a shutdown. Because of this ability to island and blackstart, some district energy systems have upwards of 99.99% reliability, making them desirable infrastructure in an increasingly climate-uncertain world. In fact, many major American military facilities, including Fort Bragg and Andrews Air Force Base, operate on district energy systems due to its superior energy resilience and security.

How district energy can contribute to a greener future

In addition to helping protect communities from devastating climate events right now, district energy can help pave the way to a greener future, in which global warming is addressed and the effects of climate change limited, to help reduce the number of climate-related disasters to begin with. Here are some key ways district energy helps reduce carbon footprints:

  • Reduces primary energy consumption for heating and cooling by up to 50%
  • Many district systems integrate Combined Heat and Power (CHP), which has an average efficiency of 75%, compared to 50% for traditional generation methods (significantly offsetting carbon emissions that would have been emitted through conventional means)
  • A diversity of buildings (such as commercial buildings with daytime use and residential buildings with more evening use) in a district can lead to waste energy sharing and load balancing
  • Central district energy facilities can be easily electrified. Once switched over to new renewable fuel sources and/or technologies, all buildings that are part of the district system will benefit from the carbon footprint reduction instantly, since they are all connected to the same generation facility

Fortunately, the world is catching on to these benefits. The United Nations launched the District Energy in Cities initiative to encourage urban centers to take advantage of the greening power of district energy to help reduce cities’ carbon footprints and thus their contributions to climate change. Campuses, hospitals, and research facilities around the country are already relying on district energy to both meet current energy security needs and to do their part in working toward a greener future.

It’s not always the case that the technology that can help us stay safe now is the same technology that can help us move systemically in the right direction. In the face of a danger as pressing and dire as climate change, we’re fortunate to have that present and future solution in district energy.

BNN News Interview with Matt O’Malley Vicinity Energy

In this interview with Boston Neighborhood News Network host Faith Imafidon, Vicinity’s Chief Sustainability Officer Matt O’Malley discusses how eSteam™ is revolutionizing district energy by providing steam with heat pumps and electric boilers, rather than cogeneration or gas boilers.

White paper: Revolutionizing urban sustainability

We’re amid an energy transformation driven by a mounting global crisis: climate change. Across the world, we are experiencing more extreme weather events due to accelerating levels of atmospheric greenhouse gas emissions. Mitigating carbon in the production and distribution of energy is now just as critically important as our society’s ever-growing need for energy itself. It’s clear that we need resilient, reliable and agile energy solutions…now. 

District energy systems, like Vicinity’s, are uniquely positioned to take advantage of existing infrastructure in conjunction with critical technological advancements to cost-effectively decarbonize quickly. This white paper highlights the benefits of district energy in a decarbonizing world, specifically how electrifying district energy can help urban centers rapidly and affordably achieve city and state carbon reduction goals.

Learn more about how the electrification of district energy systems can help U.S. cities achieve building decarbonization.

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu Kicks off Vicinity Energy’s electrification plans

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu helped kick off our electrification plans with the deconstruction of the steam turbine at our Kendall Green Energy Facility, paving the way for the installation of our new 42 MW electric boiler.

This monumental step forward accelerates our efforts to reach net zero carbon emissions and offer carbon-free eSteam™ to our Boston and Cambridge customers.

Reimagining the energy industry: an inflection point for decarbonization efforts

As a coastal city, Boston is particularly vulnerable to the negative and real impact of climate change. Over the next several decades, according to a new report from the University of Massachusetts Boston, this region will almost certainly see hotter days, increasingly intense storms, and rising sea levels. Current guidance coming out of local and state government – such as Boston’s updated Building Emissions Reduction and Disclosure Ordinance (BERDO 2.0), which sets requirements for large buildings to reduce their energy and water use data, stretch codes which are mandated so buildings will achieve higher energy savings, and growing investments in green and renewable energy technologies – are prescriptive policies that will help lower greenhouse gas emissions and hopefully slow climate change’s tide.

Still, with the recent Supreme Court decision curtailing the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, achieving a 50 percent drop in emissions by 2030 or a net zero future with the remaining tools from a federal regulation standpoint will be increasingly challenging. This ruling affirms the local business community’s role in achieving net zero, particularly in Greater Boston. In a way, it is an opportunity for creative solutions to drive what needs to be done.

Coming from the government world, I am excited to be part of the solution. And with 2022 now at its midpoint – an inflection point regarding how environmental progress will be achieved locally and nationally, I thought I would share an update on the state of play from our perspective.

Recently there’s been momentum in the environmental world regarding the usage of old technology with an innovative, fresh lens. For instance, cargo bikes are an efficient and environmentally friendly method for making last-mile deliveries. A study last year by Possible, a British advocacy group, found that electric cargo bikes cut carbon emissions by 90% compared with traditional diesel vans and by a third compared with electric vans, according to the report. Air pollution was also significantly reduced. The bikes also delivered approximately 60% faster than vans in urban centers, had a higher average speed, and dropped off ten items an hour, compared with six items for vans. Meanwhile, unlike plastic, glass bottles are a fully sustainable and recyclable resource that also provides fantastic environmental benefits like a longer life cycle and lower carbon footprint. It is also made of natural raw materials and has an enhanced ability to preserve food.

This is precisely what we are doing at Vicinity. In April, we announced the launch of eSteam™, an innovation designed to rapidly decarbonize the highest source of emissions in major cities and commercial buildings. Our company is the first in the U.S. to electrify our operations, offering renewable thermal energy by installing electric boilers, industrial-scale heat pumps, and thermal storage at our central facilities starting in Boston and Cambridge, with other locations to follow.

In cities like Boston and Cambridge, buildings account for nearly 70% of all greenhouse gas emissions. Think about how changing the fuel source can have a profound impact, whether on coal, oil, natural gas, or combined heat and power (CHP) plants. Now is the time to transition from natural gas to renewable, clean energy. That is precisely what this new electrified system will be able to accomplish: modernizing how district energy is approached.

If we are serious about decarbonization, we must be bold and reimagine our industry. That’s what is being done at Vicinity Energy, and we are looking to best practices from similar steam loops in other parts of the world. Copenhagen, Malmö, and Drammen use district energy to meet and surpass their respective climate goals. Our goal is to be the first in the U.S. to lead in this space. Vicinity is uniquely poised to serve as a national leader in building decarbonization. The time for action is now. Our customers want it, our cities ask for it, and our planet demands it.

We are proud of what we are accomplishing.

eSteam™: a new, greener solution to combat carbon emissions

Many people are aware that pollution is a harmful downside to urbanization. What you may not know, however, is that 90% of our world’s population breathes polluted air every day, and 7 million people die from exposure to this contaminated air every year. This is a jarring statistic, and it sheds light on how carbon emissions serve as a silent killer in our world as the air we breathe can quickly and quietly turn lethal.

What is causing this?

Various factors contribute to pollution and climate change around the world. So, what are the biggest culprits, and how do they produce these carbon emissions? Building operations are responsible for 27% of global CO2 emissions each year, with another 20% coming from the construction and building materials required to create and maintain a building. These daily operational emissions generate lighting, heating, and cooling for a building, all essential elements of residential and commercial life. Additionally, many of these carbon emissions from buildings result from desperation to meet growing energy demands in conjunction with a lack of available clean energy options, as most of these establishments are several decades old.

What can be done?

One way to combat the increasing levels of carbon emissions within buildings is to integrate renewable energy systems into existing architecture through renovation and retrofits. It is equally important to ensure that new buildings’ systems are centered around using clean energy. Commonly known renewable energy sources include wind, solar, and hydroelectricity, and while these have proven to be effective in numerous circumstances, another, more cost-effective solution exists. eSteam™ generates power without emitting any CO2 and is the first-ever renewable thermal energy product in the United States!

Customers benefit from carbon-free eSteam™ generated with renewable electricity.

How eSteam™ works

Instead of fossil fuels, eSteam™, a new offering from Vicinity Energy, is fueled by electricity in a process known as electrification. Electric boilers, thermal storage, and industrial-scale heat pumps are installed at central facilities to generate steam. These devices employ renewable power from other carbon-neutral energy sources such as wind, solar, and hydro to produce energy used to power buildings in cities across the country.

Rather than start from scratch with sustainable infrastructure, eSteam™ leverages and builds upon existing infrastructure. This means that older buildings do not need significant investments to decarbonize their thermal energy load. eSteam™ uses Vicinity’s existing network of steam pipes, electric substations, and transmission lines to rapidly reduce carbon emissions. This electrification method is the most cost-effective and reliable way to accelerate the decarbonization of buildings and communities.

Benefits of eSteam™

  • With zero carbon emissions, users can meet their sustainability goals while simultaneously avoiding looming carbon taxes. Many cities throughout the U.S. have implemented or are considering implementing laws to lower buildings’ greenhouse gas emissions. These policies typically impose hefty fines for non-compliance. Because eSteam™ is carbon-free, users can have peace of mind knowing that their building will be greener while avoiding carbon fees and penalties.
  • eSteam™ offers total flexibility. Vicinity gives purchasers of eSteam™ the option to choose whichever renewable energy source they prefer to generate energy for their building. They can also select how much eSteam™ they wish to purchase annually. With these features, eSteam™ is customizable to various budgets and sustainability objectives.
  • eSteam™ is delivered through Vicinity’s district energy system, making it considerably more affordable than other onsite alternatives such as building in electric boilers. This access to wholesale power gives district energy an economic advantage over onsite equipment. It distinguishes eSteam™ as the most valuable and cost-effective method of improving a building’s carbon footprint.
  • Choosing eSteam™ to decarbonize your building eliminates the need to invest in costly capital projects. Therefore, you can avoid the financial burden of expensive renovations. This is because eSteam™ decarbonizes buildings by connecting to Vicinity’s district energy network, which is known for its maximum reliability and resiliency in a climate uncertain future.
  • eSteam™ users can gain potential points for LEED® and ENERGY STAR® certifications. These certifications are a great way to demonstrate your building’s commitment to sustainability.

Act now for the future

eSteam™ will be available nationwide shortly, and you can commit to making this change today. Making the switch to eSteam™ for a low-carbon future will not only aid in saving our planet from the adverse effects of carbon emissions, but it will also help decarbonize our communities so that fewer people find themselves sick or dying from breathing polluted air.

Vicinity Energy Launches Carbon-free Renewable Energy Product to Rapidly Decarbonize Buildings

BOSTON, April 7, 2022 – Vicinity Energy, a national decarbonization leader with the most extensive portfolio of district energy systems, launches eSteam™, a new innovation designed to rapidly decarbonize the highest source of emissions in major cities, commercial buildings. The company is the first in the U.S. to electrify its operations, offering renewable thermal energy by installing electric boilers, industrial-scale heat pumps, and thermal storage at its central facilities starting in Boston and Cambridge, with its other districts to follow.

Vicinity Energy centrally produces and distributes steam, hot water, and chilled water to over 230 million square feet of building space nationwide. To offer cost-competitive, renewable thermal energy to its customers, Vicinity will leverage and build upon its existing infrastructure, including its extensive network of underground pipes, electric substations, and transmission lines, which are notoriously hard to site and permit. Further, Vicinity has access to renewable power through the electric grid versus commercial buildings that purchase retail power, typically 2 to 3 times more expensive. Coupling the existing infrastructure with favorable pricing, Vicinity’s innovative approach to electrifying its operations will provide customers with a cost-effective decarbonization tool to meet sustainability goals without expensive onsite retrofits or significant capital investments.

Vicinity’s first electric asset will enter service in late 2024. At that time, the company will procure electricity from renewable, carbon-free energy sources such as wind, solar, and hydro to generate eSteam™.

By electrifying its operations and offering renewable thermal, eSteam™’s benefits include:

  • The ability to leverage district energy with guaranteed carbon-free emissions
  • Total flexibility in the amount selected and the renewable electricity source used to produce eSteam™
  • An affordable, cost-effective energy option to achieve sustainability targets
  • Carbon-neutral energy without substantial capital investments or ongoing, in-building
    maintenance of equipment
  • Additional potential points for LEED® and ENERGY STAR® certifications
  • Continued reliability and resiliency from the district energy system

Vicinity’s eSteam™ will provide customers with another option to cleanly heat and cool their buildings. Commercial buildings will no longer need natural gas boilers, eliminating unregulated gas stacks and unmonitored carbon emissions in our neighborhoods, reducing carbon and improving overall air quality.

“We’re thrilled to be the first district energy company in the United States to bring renewable thermal energy to our customers. Our operations are incredibly flexible, so we can quickly pivot to electrification and offer an innovative, affordable, carbon-free path for commercial building owners with eSteam™,” said Bill DiCroce, president and chief executive officer of Vicinity Energy. “This is game-changing for our communities.”

“We applaud the aggressive efforts of Vicinity Energy to decarbonize their Boston steam system,” says John Cleveland, Senior Advisor to the Boston Green Ribbon Commission. Vicinity Energy CEO Bill DiCroce has been a long-term member of the Commission. “Success on this front will make a major contribution to Boston’s goal of carbon neutrality by 2050 and set a bold example for other district energy systems across the country. It is a great example of what can be accomplished with public-private alignment.”

“There’s no place for gas in a climate-safe future,” said Andee Krasner, on behalf of Mothers Out Front – Boston. “We are excited Vicinity Energy plans to transition away from natural gas
to renewable, clean energy, which will enable commercial buildings to reduce carbon emissions and improve air quality in our communities.”

“Since we announced our commitment to net zero in the fall of 2020, we have evaluated many technical options and conducted numerous feasibility studies to develop a robust, executable Clean Energy Future roadmap,” states Kevin Hagerty, chief technical officer of Vicinity Energy. “We are procuring equipment today to make renewable thermal energy a reality within the next 24 months in Boston and Cambridge. And we’re not stopping there. We’ll be electrifying and introducing eSteam™ in other districts and continuing to innovate to meet decarbonization goals.”

“In cities like Boston and Cambridge, buildings account for nearly 70% of all greenhouse gas emissions,” said Matt O’Malley, Vicinity’s first-ever chief sustainability officer. “Vicinity is uniquely poised to serve as a national leader in building decarbonization. The time for action is now. Our customers want it, our cities are asking for it, and our planet demands it.”

About Vicinity Energy

Vicinity Energy is a clean energy company that owns and operates an extensive portfolio of district energy systems across the United States. Vicinity produces and distributes reliable, clean steam, hot water, and chilled water to over 250 million square feet of building space nationwide. Vicinity continuously invests in its infrastructure and the latest technologies to accelerate the decarbonization of commercial and institutional buildings in city centers. Vicinity is committed to achieving net zero carbon across its portfolio by 2050. To learn more, visit https://www.vicinityenergy.us or follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.

Media Contact

Vicinity Energy
Sara DeMille
Marketing and Communications
857-955-5073
sara.demille@vicinityenergy.us

A clean energy future is in our grasp

Clean Energy Future Infographic

By taking action and implementing a host of innovative energy strategies and technologies, Vicinity is leading the way to building decarbonization.