Transforming district energy in Boston and Cambridge

As the Vicinity teams work hard to decarbonize our facilities across the country, we are sharing the key updates our facilities are undergoing during this transformation. The electrification of our operations is well underway in Boston and Cambridge, as our facilities across the country prepare to undergo similar processes in the coming months and years.

We are transforming our historic Kendall facility to meet our communities’ and customers’ needs by leveraging existing infrastructure and installing innovative technologies such as an industrial-scale electric boiler, a river-based heat pump complex, and thermal storage. The electrification of our operations will allow us to offer eSteam™, a carbon-free, renewable energy solution, to decarbonize our customers’ buildings and communities.

Learn more about the various updates we’re making to decarbonize our Boston and Cambridge operations below and stay tuned for all future updates on our progress.

Boston and Cambridge electrification progress


June 2024 update

As soon as the electric boiler arrived at Vicinity’s Kendall facility, the team wasted no time in beginning the installation work required to bring this project to life. During the months of April and May, structural steelwork was completed to allow access for operation and provide a framework for mechanical and electrical systems. Crews have been hard at work installing auxiliary pumps, boiler trim, steam piping, and valves that will integrate the boiler into the facility’s existing systems.

Electric boiler installation


March 2024 update

At the end of March, our first industrial-scale 42MW electric boiler was installed! After months of preparing our Kendall, MA facility for its arrival and installation, our team successfully carried out the complex process of installing this large-scale technology. The electric boiler is expected to be fully operational by the summer of 2024, and begin serving our Boston and Cambridge customers with carbon-free eSteam™.

Electric boiler installation

March 2024 update

In March, our team got to work preparing the space in our Kendall facility where the 42MW electric boiler will be installed. This area is being prepped, and recently our team finished assembling the platform that the electric boiler will rest upon once installed. The 42MW electric boiler has arrived at our Kendall facility and is expected to be fully operational by the summer of 2024.
Electric boiler platform

February 2024 update

Several upgrades are taking place throughout February as part of our Kendall facility’s electrification transformation. Several pieces of equipment are being removed, demolished, or prepared to be demolished, to make room for our more sustainable and efficient systems.

The areas that will be home to these technologies are being prepared for their installation, with various demolition projects underway and steelwork being prepared. The 42MW electric boiler has arrived at our Kendall facility and is expected to be fully operational by the summer of 2024. The 35MW industrial-scale heat pump complex is anticipated to enter service at our Kendall facility in 2028.

Electrification and efficiency upgrades and preparations begin


December 2023 update

In December, Vicinity’s Deputy CEO and President Kevin Hagerty and Senior Vice President of Engineering Pat Gillooly traveled to the MAN Energy Solutions’ Oberhausen and Berlin engineering offices and manufacturing and assembly facilities, along with our design team from Vanderweil Engineers.

Our team met with MAN to align our goals and objectives for the industrial-scale, river-based heat pump complex to be installed at our Kendall facility in Cambridge, MA, and better understand the team’s full capabilities in engineering and producing high-quality heat pumps and steam compressor systems.

Vicinity team travels to Germany to meet with MAN Energy Solutions team


November 2023

In November, we announced the arrival of our 42MW industrial-scale electric boiler at our Kendall Square facility in Cambridge. After passing a factory acceptance test with Vapor Power International and Precision Boiler, the boiler was delivered to our Kendall facility to be prepared for installation.

The boiler will be installed in the coming months and is expected to be fully operational by the summer of 2024.

The electric boiler is pivotal in Vicinity’s mission to provide sustainable solutions to our customers. Once operational, the boiler will enable the immediate production of eSteam™, our award-winning carbon-free thermal energy product.

Industrial-scale electric boiler arrives at Vicinity’s Kendall facility


November 2023

In November, our industrial-scale electric boiler underwent a factory acceptance test with Vapor Power International and Precision Boiler to ensure it was ready to be delivered and begin operating at our Kendall facility in Cambridge.

The rigorous test included several steps: the team examined the equipment in its final assembly process, then the boiler was disassembled, and the removed piping was painted before the boiler was re-assembled. It was inspected for quality assurance and to ensure the boiler met ASME standards. Then, power on the control cabinet was added. The Human Machine Interface (HMI) and the system’s screens and logic were reviewed. The simulation of alarm and trip signals in the control system was completed.

Finally, the teams discussed shipment details, details on re-assembly at the site, and what is involved in the commissioning and startup of the boiler. Vicinity’s Senior Performance Engineer Steve Murphy and Kendall Shift Supervisor Jeff Gawrys witnessed the performance testing.

Industrial-scale electric boiler undergoes factory acceptance testing

The electric boiler undergoes a factory acceptance test with Vapor Power International and Precision Boiler.
The electric boiler undergoes a factory acceptance test with Vapor Power International and Precision Boiler.

April 2023

In April, we announced our partnership with the Augsburg, Germany-based organization MAN Energy Solutions to collaborate in developing low-temperature source heat pump systems for steam generation.

Vicinity plans to install an industrial-scale heat pump complex at our Kendall facility by 2028. Once installed, it will be powered by renewable electricity to harvest energy from the Charles River safely and efficiently, returning it to a lower temperature so as not to harm the river’s environment.

The Cambridge heat pump complex will have a steam export capacity of 35MW, occupy a space of around 25,000 sq ft., and circulate 24.5 million to 49 million gallons of water from the Charles River daily.

MAN Energy Systems and Vicinity Energy partner on the development of industrial-scale heat pumps


February 2023

In February, we announced a long-term partnership with our first eSteam™ customer, IQHQ, Inc., a premier life sciences real estate development company focused on leadership in sustainability. Vicinity will provide eSteam™, our carbon-free, renewable thermal energy offering, to IQHQ to rapidly decarbonize IQHQ’s developments in the Fenway neighborhood.


November 2022

In November 2022, we officially kicked off our electrification plans with the deconstruction of a steam turbine at our Kendall facility. In its place, we are installing an electric boiler, marking a critical step in our commitment to reaching net zero carbon emissions across our operations by 2050.

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu joined us at our Kendall facility to commemorate the milestone.

Kicking off our electrification plans with Mayor Michelle Wu


The top three questions to help you decide between onsite natural gas boilers or district energy

Evaluating your energy options and making the right choice for long-term operations and sustainability goals

Choosing the right energy infrastructure for your building is essential. You need to install appropriate equipment to meet your load requirements and it’s important to consider a variety of factors that impact the best investment for you.

Facility managers and building owners have many options to consider when it comes to heating and cooling. In many U.S. cities, it’s common to compare the costs of installing and maintaining onsite natural gas boilers against using a centralized system, like district energy. However, evaluating these two options isn’t always straightforward. To ensure you’re comparing apples-to-apples and making the best energy decision to meet your business objectives, make sure to ask these three key questions:

  1. What are the lifecycle costs?
  2. What are my opportunity costs?
  3. Does this energy option align with our institutional objectives?


Calculating lifecycle costs

Here are our two cents: It’s easy to look strictly at the price of natural gas today and conclude that onsite gas boilers are the right economic choice for your facility. However, this is not always the case. It’s risky to evaluate a long-term investment by only accounting for one variable – fuel costs.

The most effective way to compare between onsite natural gas boilers and district energy is to calculate lifecycle costs. A lifecycle cost analysis is a powerful tool to determine the cost-effectiveness of the different investment options you’re considering. This analysis considers many factors, including the equipment’s purchase price, financing costs and operating and maintaining the equipment over time. Boiler maintenance is often overlooked but can be a significant expense.

A lifecycle cost analysis provides you with the most comprehensive picture of your energy options’ costs and benefits. You can use the data-backed lifecycle analysis to support your decision when discussing energy alternatives with internal stakeholders. Many of us feel the pressure to make long-term investment decisions in an uncertain and challenging environment, where capital and budgets are tight. Using this tool can help you feel confident you’ve done the work to validate and justify your decision through a robust analysis.

In any lifecycle cost analysis of gas boilers versus district energy steam, it’s essential to include and assess the following variables:

  • Financing costs: Both natural gas plants and district energy connections typically require an up-front investment. The investment size will vary mainly depending on the natural gas equipment and connection costs for district energy. Suppose you need to borrow money from the bank to purchase and install equipment or make other modifications to your space, including loan expenses. In that case, you will need to include the capital cost in your analysis. Interest expense is often overlooked and can be quite large, depending on the project’s size and your borrowing rate.Even if your organization has capital in the bank to cover the cost of a new plant, there is always an opportunity cost to using those funds for energy infrastructure, which we’ll cover in Assessing Your Opportunity Costs. You could use the capital to finance projects that are more aligned and core to your institutional priorities or toward revenue-generating investments.
  • Operations and maintenance (O&M): There are always costs associated with owning, operating and maintaining your equipment. O&M could include full-time staff (consider in your analysis the fully burdened labor costs inclusive of taxes, benefits, etc.) or contractors operating the system. It’s essential to check your local regulations to ensure that you factor in the appropriate number of people with the right qualifications/licensing to meet your city’s requirements. You will also need to account for ongoing maintenance, including parts replacements and future upgrades to keep your system running optimally.Natural gas plants tend to require much higher operating costs, especially over time as systems age, whereas district energy requires little to no O&M budgeting.
  • Variable energy costs: As discussed earlier, many facilities managers and building owners look at the low price of fuel and immediately assume an onsite natural gas plant is the answer. It’s undoubtedly a critical input to the decision-making process. But, to assess your variable energy costs, you need to consider not only the commodity itself but also supply costs and any expectations for increases in future consumption, such as an expansion of a hospital wing.While no one has a crystal ball, we are transitioning quickly to a low carbon economy where carbon taxes are more likely to be a reality. Any decision you make today will have consequences for the next few decades. While the fuel costs are a factor for both district energy and an onsite natural gas plant, many district energy companies are evaluating alternatives to gas and fossil fuels. District energy systems can evolve and adapt to different fuel sources as new technologies emerge.And, finally, evaluate the rate structure(s). It’s vital to ensure you fully understand the rates associated with natural gas and district energy. For example, are you being offered a firm or an interruptible rate? If it’s the latter, while often much less expensive, remember that your service can be interrupted at any time and that this could directly impact your operations.
  • Fixed costs: The fixed costs associated with each option need to be carefully assessed. District energy companies tend to charge a capacity rate, a charge to reserve capacity on the system to ensure your load is uninterrupted. Other fixed costs that should be incorporated are taxes and insurance, which can vary depending upon the option you are evaluating.

Assessing your opportunity costs

Even if you have the capital on hand to finance new equipment, there are always opportunity costs with every investment decision, such as losing potential gain from other alternatives. If you spend your cash on a new mechanical room, that leaves less budget to invest in your core operations. For a hospital, this could mean new technologies or equipment to treat patients, upgrades or expansions to tenant spaces for commercial real estate, or a new lab building on a college campus to educate students. All these examples tie directly to an organization’s core mission. Depending upon the required capital cost for an energy infrastructure project, it’s important to think about the investments you’re giving up or foregoing that could better serve your customers or constituents.

In addition to capital, there are opportunity costs associated with space, particularly in cities where it’s limited and expensive. How property managers utilize and leverage space is vital to the bottom line. Typically, mechanical rooms, large chiller or boiler plants and cooling towers take up a considerable amount of precious space within urban buildings. Of course, there could be other valuable uses for your space to consider, from amenities and retail to storage and parking.

Finally, consider the opportunity cost associated with an outage. Outages can impact your tenants’ safety, comfort or well-being of your patients. Interruptible rates are less expensive but provide the utility with the ability to interrupt your service on what could be a peak winter day or a critical business operation. Evaluating the cost of an outage and downtime is vital in assessing which option to select to best meet your energy needs.

Alignment with other institutional objectives

The last piece worth considering is the alignment of your decision with other institutional objectives. While it’s often difficult to put a dollar figure around objectives, positioning your energy investment to align with your organization’s goals can be valuable.

Many companies and institutions today have environmental, health and safety (EH&S) objectives. Energy decisions have a direct impact and correlation with environmental or sustainability goals. As organizations seek to reduce their carbon footprint, an energy infrastructure decision can be heavily influenced by expected emissions output. However, there are other EH&S-related impacts from an energy infrastructure decision, including the safety of occupants from onsite combustion, other onsite mechanical equipment, air quality and many other factors to consider.

As you evaluate your organization or facility’s options, carefully consider how each of them supports or detracts from your objectives. For example, will steam deliver more immediate carbon savings, relative to onsite combustion, to meet sustainability goals? And, importantly, review the policies your local jurisdictions are considering. These financial impacts on your organization shouldn’t be overlooked.

Making the right choice

Ultimately, the factors that lead to your energy infrastructure decision will be unique to your organization’s goals and circumstances. While there are many factors to consider when making an energy decision – from incentive programs, opportunity costs, sustainability objectives and more – a lifecycle cost analysis ensures you are comparing apples-to-apples to make an informed energy decision that meets your institution’s goals and objectives.

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.

eSteam™ and the cost-saving benefits of transitioning to clean energy

Many cities across the United States are finding ways to combat climate change by setting ambitious decarbonization goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Urban buildings are notorious for emitting significant carbon emissions into our atmosphere by using fossil fuels for heating and other energy uses. With the Federal government and various states implementing, drafting, and debating new laws, regulations, and programs to swiftly push the clean energy transition, now is the time to consider electrification and move away from natural gas.

Risks to consider with natural gas

While many buildings and homes around the world currently rely on natural gas for heating needs, there are several risks factors that are critical to consider when debating whether to remain on natural gas over cleaner fuel sources.

Operating costs and legislative risk

As we advance towards a low-carbon economy, the likelihood of carbon taxes becoming a roadblock for natural gas consumption is increasing. Building owners must plan for a future when carbon taxes are a reality and consider their choices today to avoid financial consequences in the coming years.

An additional risk building owners must consider is price unpredictability and the looming operating cost increases associated with using natural gas. This legislative uncertainty and price volatility make long-term energy planning difficult.

When buildings install natural gas equipment, they are locked in to using fossil fuels for 30 to 40 years, which is the average life span of the equipment. Given the current political landscape, however, it’s crucial to review all energy options to ensure that buildings can adapt as climate legislation is implemented over the next 5, 10, or even 30 years.

In addition to the future cost of a carbon tax, onsite mechanical plants require ongoing operation and maintenance. Often, this means bringing on full-time staff or contractors to run the system daily. Owners must check their local regulations to ensure they have factored in the appropriate number of staff with the right qualifications and licensing to meet the city’s operational requirements. They must also account for ongoing maintenance, including parts replacement and future upgrades, to keep the system running optimally.

Health and safety concerns

Fossil fuel-based heating systems, such as oil or natural gas furnaces, can contribute to indoor air pollution, which, according to the EPA, is often more dangerous than outdoor air pollutants due to high exposure levels. They release combustion byproducts such as carbon monoxide, which can negatively impact indoor air quality and overall health. As carbon consciousness grows among building tenants and investors, so does the demand for green energy solutions that address concerns about reducing carbon emissions in our atmosphere and preserving our natural resources, air quality, and overall health.

By implementing cost-effective and sustainable electrification solutions, building owners can lower carbon emissions, attract environmentally conscious tenants, improve marketability, and enhance the long-term value of their properties. However, electrifying an existing building can be challenging, expensive, and increase demand for an already overloaded grid network.

Making the switch to electrification

For many building owners, going through a large-scale retrofit project to install electric equipment and facing the increasing monthly cost of retail electricity can be daunting.

The good news is that alternatives are available to aid the transition away from natural gas, without retrofits or upfront capital investment.

Electrifying district energy leverages existing infrastructure to ensure access to reliable and environmentally friendly electrons.

Vicinity’s transition to electric boilers and industrial-scale heat pumps to generate carbon-free eSteam™ eliminates the costs associated with constructing new electric substations—costs that would otherwise be passed onto the ratepayers—and avoids the challenge of permitting and citing new electric infrastructure, especially when gaining public support in urban neighborhoods.

Vicinity’s access to transmission-level electricity rates helps overcome financial barriers associated with installing electrification technologies and is more effective and less disruptive than onsite alternatives like built-in electric boilers. eSteam™ is an invaluable tool for cities and building owners aiming to meet sustainability targets, comply with carbon ordinances, and fulfill tenants’ increasing demands for sustainability.

Understanding eSteam™

By opting for eSteam™, building owners can improve their energy efficiency, reduce their carbon footprint, and prioritize the health and safety of tenants—all while keeping their budgets on track. By installing electric boilers and heat pumps in its large central facilities, purchasing power from the grid at transmission-level rates, and harnessing the energy from rivers, Vicinity can offer all the benefits of the district energy service our customers count on without compromising reliability.

eSteam™ affordability

Our primary goal is to make eSteam™ accessible and affordable for our customers. Affordability is a cornerstone in Vicinity’s electrification plan, ensuring that the transition to carbon-free solutions remains as cost-effective as possible. We make eSteam™ affordable by utilizing our large systems, existing infrastructure, and access to transmission-level rates to help our customers achieve their sustainability goals.

Further, our energy experts are skilled in procurement and equipment dispatch, which allows us to aggregate large loads and operate our equipment optimally to achieve the highest efficiencies at the lowest cost. Vicinity employs two essential strategies:

  1. “Valley” hunting: We can aggregate the load of our customer base and purchase energy when it is the least expensive. In the future, we will install thermal storage so we can purchase power when it is least expensive, produce eSteam™, store it, and distribute the stored steam when our customers need it.
  2. Optimal equipment dispatch: With our team’s extensive operational experience, we can flexibly adapt and dispatch our generating assets to most optimally serve customers. When affordable renewable energy is accessible, we will procure electricity to produce eSteam™. However, when renewable energy becomes scarce or expensive, we can quickly switch to alternative steam-generating equipment to maintain uninterrupted operations and keep costs low.

Through these operational approaches, we are dedicated to delivering the best possible outcomes for our customers without compromise.

Heating reimagined: heat pumps for building decarbonization

Industrial heat pumps are revolutionizing the way we heat buildings. With the ability to produce temperatures of up to 150C, these robust systems have become a sustainable solution for across the globe. As the demand for carbon-free heating increases, the shift away from fossil fuels is finally gaining momentum.

Vicinity is diving into the world of heat pumps

Vicinity is entering a new era of sustainability and installing heat pumps as a cutting-edge technology that provides a carbon-free heating solution to our customers and aligns with ambitious emissions reduction goals nationwide.

In April 2023, Vicinity announced our partnership with MAN Energy Solutions, a trailblazer hailing from Augsburg, Germany. This dynamic collaboration will reshape our understanding of sustainability as we develop low-temperature source heat pump systems for eSteam™ generation. These plans are already in motion as we look ahead to 2026 when Vicinity’s Kendall facility in Cambridge will be home to Massachusetts’s largest industrial-scale heat pump complex.

Drawing inspiration from heat pump successes in Europe, this venture will create ripples on a national scale and serve as a testament to Boston’s commitment to shaping a greener future. Powered by renewable electricity, Vicinity’s heat pump complex will safely and efficiently harvest energy from the Charles River, returning it at a lower temperature.

With the heating sector responsible for a staggering 30 to 40% of global CO2 emissions, the time to implement sustainable energy solutions is now. Vicinity’s sustainability plans mirror the examples set by cities like Glasgow, Scotland, and Drammen, Norway, where water-source heat pumps have already made their mark. The first water-source heat pump that emerged in Glasgow in 2021 is three times more efficient than natural gas boilers and allows the city to tap into the renewable power of the River Clyde, just as Vicinity will do in with the Charles River in Cambridge, MA.

How will Vicinity’s heat pump complex work?

Vicinity is transforming district energy in the cities we operate in by installing an industrial-scale heat complex. By 2026, this complex will be operational at our Kendall facility, and installation in other systems in cities like Philadelphia and Kansas City will follow.

This innovative heat pump will draw heat from nearby water sources to generate steam and improve the system’s efficiency. The technology functions similarly to an air conditioning system, only it accomplishes the reverse on a much grander scale. Ensuring that the river and its ecosystems remain unharmed, the river intake system lifts heat from the river and brings it into our facilities.

Since most of this heat is transported rather than generated, heat pumps are much more efficient than traditional heating methods such as natural gas boilers and heaters, resulting in lower operational costs for building owners.

So, how are our plans progressing? Today, we are designing our Kendall Square facility in partnership with Germany-based MAN Energy Solutions. The heat pump will occupy a space of approximately 25,000 sq ft., and it will circulate through 24.5 million – 49 million gallons of water from the Charles River each day, returning the water to the river at a lower temperature.

Early design of the industrial-scale heat pump Vicinity Energy is developing in partnership with MAN Energy Solutions.

Our systems will also employ electric boilers and molten salt thermal battery storage to fully decarbonize our footprint. Leveraging our existing system of underground steam pipes, we will seamlessly provide our customers with carbon-free eSteam™. Our first electric boiler will enter service in Cambridge in 2024.

District energy systems are agile. By replacing fossil fuel infrastructure with industrial-scale technologies such as heat pumps, we can effectively decarbonize our communities without retrofitting or installing new electrical infrastructure in our customers’ buildings.

Vicinity Energy Names Bill Fahey as Chief Operating Officer

Boston, July 10, 2023 – Vicinity Energy, a national decarbonization leader with an extensive portfolio of district energy systems across the United States, announced that Bill Fahey has joined the company as its new chief operating officer. Fahey joins Vicinity with over 35 years of experience in the energy industry. Previously Fahey served as the executive vice president and chief technical officer for Veolia North America, where he led many operations-focused initiatives and has been instrumental to its long-term success in North America.

Vicinity maintains the largest district energy portfolio in the nation, and recently signed an agreement with MAN Energy Solutions to build a low-temperature source heat pump complex at Vicinity’s facility in Cambridge, MA to produce carbon-free steam, eSteam™, utilizing water from the Charles River. 

“Vicinity is leading the way to a decarbonized future with our carbon-free eSteam™ solution for heating and cooling,” said Bill DiCroce, president and CEO of Vicinity Energy. “Bill’s expertise and ability to produce creative, result-driven solutions will accelerate our decarbonization mission and allow us to offer our customers reliable, efficient, carbon-free technologies and services to meet sustainability goals.” 

Fahey is a graduate of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy and earned his MBA from the University of Massachusetts Boston.

The race to net zero

In 2022, the company kicked off its electrification strategy by deconstructing a steam turbine at its Kendall Facility in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In its place, Vicinity is installing an industrial-scale electric boiler that will begin supplying carbon-free eSteam™ to customers in 2024 and a heat pump complex, the largest in the nation, in 2026. 

The company’s other 11 locations in major cities nationwide will undergo similar electrification processes in the coming years to achieve its goal of net zero by 2050.

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 or follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.

Media Contacts

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Marketing and Communications

Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission Renders Decision Regarding Vicinity Energy and PGW Rate Dispute

Philadelphia, April 24, 2023 – Vicinity Energy, a national decarbonization leader with an extensive portfolio of district energy systems across the United States, announces today that the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) has made its decision regarding Philadelphia Gas Works’ (PGW) efforts to increase Vicinity’s gas transportation rates. The decision requires PGW to conduct a full rate case to determine the appropriate rates and will ensure fair and legal pricing for gas transportation. This decision will allow Vicinity customers an affordable and sustainable path forward to achieve net zero emissions goals with district energy.

In February 2021, PGW provided Vicinity with proposed new rates that drastically increased Vicinity’s gas transportation costs by up to 1,000% and presented a radical change in contract terms. Read the October 2021 formal complaint filed by Vicinity with the Pennsylvania PUC, contesting the cost increase and unacceptable contract terms. PGW also falsely claimed that Vicinity was receiving a subsidized rate, which the PUC states directly contradicts PGW’s position in every prior PGW base rate proceeding.

As a long-standing community member, Vicinity remains committed to Philadelphia. Vicinity will continue delivering affordable, sustainable energy solutions to decarbonize the City, its customers, and neighborhoods where its employees and families live and work. Vicinity is leading the energy transition with its electrification plans and will continue to pursue alternatives to PGW’s gas transportation service.

“Philadelphia deserves a clean, fossil-free future,” states Bill DiCroce, president and CEO of Vicinity Energy. “We are grateful to the Pennsylvania PUC commissioners and staff for their thorough and thoughtful deliberation and are pleased with the decision. While the decision does not fully conclude our dispute with PGW, the PUC’s direction and observations regarding PGW’s deviation from its prior practices support our commitment to obtaining fair and legal pricing for the gas transportation services provided by PGW. We continue to make our customers our top priority and will continue to offer a decarbonized path forward to meet their sustainability goals.”

PGW is responsible for contributing 4.6 million tons of carbon equivalent emissions to the region’s carbon budget and has admitted that its antiquated low-pressure distribution system leaks 1 million tons of carbon dioxide annually. PGW conducted a diversification study launched by Philadelphia’s Office of Sustainability, and the City has publicly stated that it can only reach its decarbonization targets by reducing the carbon emissions from thermal energy. As a fossil fuel-supplying entity, PGW’s future is uncertain.

In Philadelphia, Vicinity’s district energy steam system avoids over 300,000 tons of CO2 emissions annually compared to individual onsite gas boilers. Vicinity’s combined heat and power (CHP) technology, also known as cogeneration, at its Grays Ferry facility in South Philadelphia is 20% more efficient than even the most advanced combined-cycle gas turbine power plants. Vicinity’s steam is a low-carbon, clean option for customers to lower their carbon footprint today. Vicinity’s path to decarbonizing its operations using renewable energy sources to power electric boilers, industrial-scale heat pumps, and thermal storage is underway. In 2022, Vicinity launched its renewable carbon-free eSteamTMproduct to meet the needs of customers and cities to achieve sustainability goals.

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 or follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.

Media Contact

Vicinity Energy
Sara DeMille
Marketing and Communications

Vicinity Energy Partners with Baltimore Gas and Electric on Key Infrastructure Investment in Baltimore

Baltimore, February 28, 2023 – Vicinity Energy, a national decarbonization leader with an extensive portfolio of district energy systems across the United States, has been awarded $1 million in incentives through the EmPOWER Maryland program managed by Baltimore Gas and Electric (BGE) to invest in the significant energy efficiency project that resulted in sustainable upgrades for its district chilled water facilities.

Vicinity invested $2 million to upgrade their district chilled water plants with piping upgrades, variable frequency drives on large motors, improved instrumentation, and sophisticated computer optimization software. This project improved equipment and controls at the Vicinity chilled water system located in Baltimore. Optimum Energy LLC provided the engineering and optimization software that is the heart of the efficiency project.

The upgrade has improved the plant’s overall electrical efficiency by over 20%, saving over 5 million kWh/yr. In addition to the green improvements at the facility, this upgrade increased system reliability and redundancy.

“Vicinity is proud to invest in our existing energy infrastructure today to provide our customers with a more sustainable, resilient option to heat and cool their buildings,” said Mat Ware, Senior Vice President for Vicinity’s South region, including Baltimore. “While we work to decarbonize our systems across the country, driving energy efficiency is critical for the communities we serve.”

Vicinity Energy centrally produces and distributes steam, hot water, and chilled water to over 30 million square feet of building space in Baltimore. More than half of the steam delivered to Baltimore customers is generated through zero carbon, non-fossil fuel-based renewables, resulting in greenhouse gas emissions reductions of 30,000 tons annually, or the equivalent of removing about 11,000 cars from Baltimore’s roads. The company also recently announced the purchase of 100% carbon-free electricity to run its Baltimore heating and cooling operations, eliminating up to 80% of greenhouse gas emissions from cooling operations and 90% of emissions from the electricity used for heating operations.

“We are proud to support Vicinity through Maryland’s EmPOWER Maryland program and support their focus on energy efficiency, which helps to power a cleaner and brighter future for our customers,” said Alexander Núñez, BGE’s senior vice president of governmental, regulatory, and external affairs. “By partnering with forward-thinking companies like Vicinity we are able to bring the State of Maryland closer to its decarbonization goals. This sizable investment from Vicinity shows what we can accomplish when we work together and highlights the power of the EmPOWER Maryland program, which has helped customers reduce their average electric use by 19% since the program began in 2008.

This announcement comes on the heels of recent developments by Vicinity Energy to decarbonize its district energy systems across the country. Vicinity is on track to fully electrify its steam generation in Boston and Cambridge and introduce innovative technological advancements into its operations, including electric boilers, industrial-scale heat pumps, and molten salt thermal energy storage.

In 2022, the company kicked off its electrification plans by deconstructing a steam turbine at its Kendall Facility in Cambridge, Massachusetts. An electric boiler will be installed in its place, and will begin supplying eSteam™ to customers in 2024. The company’s other locations across the country will undergo similar electrification processes in the coming years.

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 or follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.

Media Contact

Vicinity Energy
Sara DeMille
Marketing and Communications

What Vicinity Energy’s eSteam™ means for Philadelphia

Today, transitioning to clean and renewable energy benefits our environment and helps businesses in the United States meet cost-saving goals and comply with legislative requirements.

A large share of daily carbon emissions are generated by lighting, heating, and cooling buildings, alongside the other essential elements of commercial operations. Integrating renewable energy resources into existing and future developments is rapidly becoming the standard for adopting a clean energy infrastructure.

As it stands now, the City of Philadelphia has much work to do to meet the standards set forth by the Climate Action Playbook. The playbook’s ambitious goal of carbon neutrality by 2050 will not be possible without the help of innovative energy alternatives that other U.S. cities are implementing today.

With the consequences of climate change already taking effect, the clean energy transition couldn’t be more urgent. In 2019, the City of Philadelphia reported that buildings and industry are the largest contributors to the city’s greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for almost 70% of citywide emissions. The majority of emissions come from the energy-intensive commercial, industrial, and residential sectors.

However, the effect of these carbon dioxide emissions on residents’ health has been a concern long before the City’s Playbook was put into action. A Drexel University assessment report predicts that by 2100, energy demand for buildings in Philadelphia will rise due to rising temperatures across the country. Models estimate that by 2100 new buildings will increase cooling requirements by 68.2% for small offices, 50.4% for medium offices, and 53.4% for large offices.

As carbon emissions and temperatures continue to rise, air pollution becomes a growing concern for many residents. At the time of the report, Philadelphia’s asthma prevalence rates were twice the national average among children, and the city has consistently ranked as one of the worst in the country to live in with asthma.

By embracing and investing in renewable energy, Philadelphia will reduce its reliance on fossil fuels, decrease its carbon footprint, and protect city residents and their families for future generations.

Public-private partnership is essential to Philadelphia’s future

In 2021, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney signed a revised and revamped energy pledge for the city alongside the Climate Action Playbook’s commitment to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 and transitioning the city to 100% clean energy.

Pennsylvania made progress by becoming the first major fossil fuel state to enter the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). RGGI is an initiative of 12 New England and Mid-Atlantic states to cap and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector while generating economic growth.

Stricter emissions regulations are beginning to take effect in other cities across the U.S., such as Boston’s Building Emissions Reduction and Disclosure Ordinance (BERDO 2.0). The ordinance sets requirements for large buildings to lower their energy usage to reduce the City’s carbon emissions to net zero by 2050. In the coming years, Philadelphia will likely enact a similar policy, requiring businesses to swiftly transition to adopt renewable energy technologies.

It’s clear that despite progressing towards its 2050 goal, the City of Philadelphia needs help to achieve this milestone. Commercial and residential buildings throughout the city need to take steps to become more energy efficient. The push towards a clean energy future for Philadelphians requires public-private partnership and the widespread adoption of renewable energy.

Addressing Philadelphia’s clean energy goals

As Philadelphia heads into a development boom, solidifying its leadership in education, life sciences, and medicine, businesses must take every opportunity to prioritize the environment by implementing clean energy technologies. Along with new properties, existing buildings can further green their energy supply with district energy.

The district energy system has already proven to be one of the most valuable tools at Philadelphia’s disposal when it comes to saving money, optimizing building space, and reducing the city’s carbon footprint. For years, Philadelphia businesses like The Wanamaker building, Drexel University, Wills Eye Hospital, and Jefferson Health have benefitted from green steam and reliable energy service to meet their mission-critical needs.

At Vicinity, we have made multimillion-dollar investments to improve Philly’s critical energy infrastructure, enabling our district energy system to reduce carbon emissions by nearly 300,000 tons annually. Vicinity is taking further steps to decarbonize our operations in Philadelphia by 2030 or sooner.

With the recent launch of eSteam™, the nation’s first commercial renewable thermal energy product, and through partnership opportunities with innovative landlords like IQHQ, Vicinity is well on its way to begin decarbonizing new and existing buildings across our locations.

Rather than using conventional natural gas boilers to power our systems, Vicinity is installing electric boilers, molten salt thermal battery storage, and industrial-scale heat pumps to generate eSteam™. These innovative technologies allow us to harness renewable power from alternative and clean energy sources such as wind, solar, and hydro.

Vicinity’s Philadelphia team has already begun scoping and designing our plant in Grays Ferry to make eSteam™ available for our customers as early as 2025. We are beyond excited by the overwhelmingly positive response to our plan among advocates, policymakers, and customers.

As Vicinity transitions to a fully carbon-free product, Philadelphia buildings can decrease their carbon emissions today by connecting to the district energy system and taking advantage of our green steam. In doing so, building owners will have a unique opportunity to get ahead of potential carbon regulations as we build on existing infrastructure to deliver eSteam™ to our customers, making it considerably more affordable than other onsite alternatives.

The electrification of district energy systems is a game changer for the environment, our communities, and our collective future. Imagine what a cleaner, more environmentally focused future could mean for Philadelphia and what it will do to broaden Philadelphia’s developmental future for decades to come.

Mayor Wu Kicks off Vicinity Energy’s Electrification Plans

Cambridge, November 17, 2022 – Vicinity Energy, a decarbonization leader with the nation’s largest portfolio of district energy systems, serving over 70 million square feet of building space across Boston and Cambridge, has officially kicked off its electrification plans with the deconstruction of a steam turbine at the Kendall Green Energy Cogeneration Facility. Vicinity will install an electric boiler in its place, marking a critical step in the company’s Clean Energy Future commitment to reaching net zero carbon emissions across all its operations by 2050.

Boston’s Mayor Michelle Wu commemorated the day at Vicinity’s Kendall facility. Marking a crucial step toward a clean energy future for Boston and Cambridge, the deconstruction aligns with the Mayor’s latest move to file a home rule petition to ban the use of fossil fuels for new buildings in Boston.

“It is remarkable to be able to say that Vicinity is the first energy company in the country to electrify its operations. That is a huge deal and one that will have ramifications for generations to come. For every gigantic natural gas boiler that’s going to be decommissioned, for every new building that will use eSteam™, those are jobs created right here for our residents and our communities,” said Boston Mayor Michelle Wu. “It is clear that the work of ensuring our planet remains livable is going to require all of us: every level of government, business, and community. We’re very grateful that Vicinity’s carbon-free eSteam™ product will power the leading industries we’re already known for here in Greater Boston such as life sciences, healthcare, commercial real estate, and many more.”

“With the installation of this electric boiler, we are enabling a seamless conversion to carbon-free eSteam™ for our customers, including innovative commercial building owners and developers like IQHQ,” said Bill DiCroce, president and chief executive officer of Vicinity Energy. “This is game-changing for our communities and a prime example of what happens when government, the business community, and the energy sector work together and embrace the region’s Green New Deal.”

The electric boiler will enter service in 2024. At that time, the company will procure electricity from renewable, carbon-free energy sources such as wind, solar, and hydro to generate eSteam™, the first-ever carbon-free renewable energy product. IQHQ will be Vicinity’s first customer to power the rapid decarbonization of its buildings in Boston’s Fenway neighborhood: 109 Brookline and Fenway Center Phase 2 with carbon-free eSteam™.

“Today, we are excited to be celebrating the installation of the electric boiler,” said Jenny Whitson, director of sustainability & ESG at IQHQ. “By Vicinity taking this step to offer developers like us the opportunity to source electric steam generated by renewable energy, we are able to achieve our climate goals and carbon emission reduction targets for our projects.”

Over the years, Vicinity has evolved as new, cleaner fuel sources have become commercially available. The company’s predecessors burned coal to generate steam before migrating to oil, natural gas, and combined heat and power (CHP). Because district energy systems are agnostic to fuel type, they can quickly implement these new, more sustainable technologies and fuel sources. Electrification is the next crucial step to decarbonize Boston and Cambridge at scale and ensure both municipalities meet their new energy standards and emission mandates.

The Kendall Green Energy Cogeneration Facility simultaneously produces thermal energy and electricity in one efficient process to serve approximately 75% of Vicinity’s customers throughout the region. When the electric boilers begin service, all of these facilities will have access to carbon-free, renewable energy at once.

“Here in Kendall Square, a place known for global innovation, we are proud of Vicinity’s contribution to urban decarbonization with eSteam,” said Beth O’Neill Maloney, executive director at the Kendall Square Association. “Vicinity’s electrification plans will help contribute to the decarbonization of Cambridge and Boston without building-level changes. Vicinity is a global sustainability leader, charting a new path forward for district energy.”

Vicinity is on track to fully electrify its steam generation in Boston and Cambridge and introduce other technological advancements into its operations, including industrial-scale heat pumps and molten salt thermal energy storage. The company’s other locations across the country will undergo similar electrification processes in the coming years.

Click here to read more about eSteam™, district energy systems, and Vicinity’s commitment to innovation and the environment.

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 230 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 or follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.

Media Contact

Vicinity Energy
Sara DeMille
Marketing and Communications