The IDEA Annual Innovation Award

The IDEA Annual Innovation Award provides a platform for IDEA members to share projects, programs and/or best practices that achieve higher energy efficiency, greater reliability and/or enhanced value to the stakeholder community while demonstrating the value proposition of district energy to the marketplace.

The IDEA Annual Innovation Award helps our industry demonstrate how district energy systems deliver benefits to various constituencies including customers, communities, shareholders, institutions, the environment and society in general.

The IDEA Innovation Award is principally a way for IDEA members to share emerging best practices and collaborative applications.  It is intended to create awareness of smaller projects and applications, not of the scale of IDEA System of the Year - processes that can be replicated and more widely used by others.

The IDEA Innovation Award should not be used to bring attention to a commercial technology, product improvement or technology innovation that is being deployed commercially.  While such a product or technology may be innovative in design and use, submissions should not be for a "product-centered" or proprietary effort. That was not the intent of our award. 

The 2017 IDEA Annual Innovation Award will be presented at the IDEA 108th Annual Conference and Trade Show in Scottsdale, Arizona, June 26-29, 2017.


  • Requested information for 2017 will be as follows:
    • Email in PDF format to IDEA at idea@districtenergy.org
    • Or mail six copies of completed materials to:
      Len Phillips
      International District Energy Association
      IDEA Innovation Award Competition
      24 Lyman Street—Suite 230
      Westborough, MA 01581
  • DEADLINE: Friday, April 14, 2017
All entries must be submitted by an IDEA member in good standing; however, there are no restrictions on the type of IDEA member (utility, campus, consultant, manufacturer, etc.) in order to cultivate participation and collaboration among operating systems, consultants and business partners. Multiple submissions per member site will be accepted.

Questions? Call us at 508-366-9339.

2016 Winner: The University of British Columbia (UBC) was announced as the winner of the IDEA 2016 Innovation Award at the Annual Chairmans Banquet on Wednesday evening, June 22, at the 107th Annual Conference & Trade Show in St. Paul, Minn.


Joe Brillhart (right) presents the 2016 Innovation Award to Paul Holt of the Uni
Joe Brillhart, Johnson Controls (right) presents the 2016 Innovation Award to Paul Holt of the University of British Columbia.

UBC's Bioenergy Research & Demonstration Facility (BRDF), completed in 2012, is a $27.4 million (UBC $8.35m) multi-partnered project initially planned to produce up to 6MW of clean, renewable heat and power to the campus.The commissioning and proof of concept was successfully demonstrated by mid-2013. The concept was to build, in a densified urban setting, an industrial facility with a biomass gasification process to produce synthetic gas (syngas) to fuel a steam boiler and or to further refine the syngas to produce an engine grade quality fuel gas for a GE Jenbacher reciprocating engine, which in turn would generate heat and power.

Today the BRDF produces up to 10 MW of reliable clean energy for use on campus offsetting 120,000 GJ's of natural gas, 16 GWh of electricity and 6000 tonnes (12% of campus) carbon emissions annually. These projects were developed out of existing BRDF infrastructure, thus avoiding any new capital costs. 

Presently the BRDF provides a positive return on UBC's $8.35M investment, with revenue from BCHydro (local electrical utility) via a Load Displacement Agreement (LDA) for electricity produced, and by avoiding natural gas and electricity purchases as well as Carbon Tax and Offsets liabilities.

The BRDF is also a valuable research facility, with a research laboratory embedded into the building. To date multiple research projects/ programs are underway and or have been completed, which in turn has improved both the operation of the BRDF, and is also providing significant research into the development of biomass as a green fuel source and other biomass derivatives. 

2015 Winner: Empower Energy Solutions was announced as the winner of the 2015 Innovation Award at the Annual Chairmans Banquet on Tuesday evening, June 30, at the 106th Annual Conference & Trade Show in Boston.

Joe Brillhart (holding award) presents the Innovation Award to Empower. Left to

Joe Brillhart (center) presents the Innovation Award to Empower. Left to right: Tariq Al Yasi, Ahmad Bin Shafar, Joe Brillhart, Mohamed Kahoor and Ramesh Ramadurai. 


Empower's submittal entitled "Centralized Metering Data Management System with 50,000 Smart Meters-Challenges and Solutions,"  describes the company's efforts to plan, implement and maintain a target number of 50,000 meters to assure accurate monitoring and billing of each end -user in each customer building. To put this effort in perspective, Empower reported annual growth for calendar year 2014 of 38,543,000 sq ft and 65 buildings. That served area approaches the entire North American total of 44,529,490 sq ft added during calendar 2014 reported by our members!


2014 Winner: PEPCO Energy Services was announced as the winner of the 2014 Innovation Award at the Annual Chairmans Banquet on Tuesday evening, June 10, at the 105th Annual Conference & Trade Show in Seattle.

IDEA Chair Joe Brillhart (left) presents the 2014 IDEA Innovation Award to John Rauch of PEPCO Energy Services.

 Submission: "Simulation Controlled Large District Energy Chilled Water System Optimization."

The innovative and unique objective of the chiller plant optimization was to install the first ever simulation and model driven controlled district energy plant using a non‐proprietary, open protocol and fully modeled brute force optimizer. This approach is equipment model driven and is customized to the plant and operations of Pepco Energy Services Midtown Thermal Control Center district energy system in Atlantic City, NJ.

2013 Winner: Empower Energy Solutions was announced at IDEA's 104th Annual Conference & Trade show in Miami, Fla., as the winner of the 2013 Innovation Award at the Annual Chairmans Banquet on Tuesday evening, June 4, in Miami, Florida. All 8 submissions were featured at the Monday, June 3 Innovation Luncheon.

IDEA Chair Joe Brillhart (left) presents the 2013 IDEA Innovation Award to Ahmad Bin Shafar of Empower Energy Solutions.

Submission: "Conversion of Dubai Healthcare City District Cooling plant from the use of conventional domestic water to treated sewage effluent."

The major challenges that face any district cooling provider are to operate the chiller systems with the highest achievable efficiency, minimize water wastage and reduce the cost of operation. This submission demonstrates how the conversion from potable or domestic water in district cooling plants to alternative water sources (specifically Treated Sewage Effluent) can be achieved and showcases this accomplishment with the integration of reverse osmosis technology.

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