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DEC tag - Efficiency in Government    




District Energy Corporation celebrates 30 years



LINCOLN – On Dec. 15, 1989, the City of Lincoln and Lancaster County formed the District Energy Corporation under the State of Nebraska’s Interlocal Corporation Act and the Nebraska Nonprofit Corporation Act. Governed by a volunteer, five-member board of directors including two city representatives, two county representatives and an LES representative, DEC streamlines jurisdictions of the City of Lincoln and Lancaster County into a single nonprofit organization. The nonprofit’s combined powers enable it to provide innovative, efficient and low-cost thermal-energy services for organizations like the City of Lincoln, Lancaster County and the State of Nebraska, along with facilities in the West Haymarket District.


DEC meets the heating and cooling needs of its customers with six thermal energy plants across the community, three downtown and three in different parts of the Lincoln area. These facilities incorporate efficient energy management technologies, including thermal storage and geothermal heat pumps, to reduce impacts on the environment and minimize fuel costs associated with heating and cooling. In DEC’s early days, these services were provided to facilities like the County-City building and Lancaster County Jail through the City-County Thermal Facility.


DEC’s 9th & K Street Plant began providing heating and cooling to the Lancaster County and City of Lincoln government complex in 1991 totaling some 600,000 square feet spread across six buildings. In 1999, the boiler plant at 14th & K Street became operational, heating more than 1 million square feet of office space for the state, including the Nebraska State Office Building, the State Capitol and the State Administrative Office.


The Lancaster County Adult Detention Facility Thermal Energy Facility was commissioned in 2012 to provide services to the new 700-bed Lancaster County Adult Detention Facility. Two years later, the West Haymarket Central Utility Plant was completed, providing reliable heating and cooling services to buildings in the West Haymarket, such as the Pinnacle Bank Arena, the Railyard and other multi-use commercial and residential spaces totaling 845,500 square feet. It was designed for possible expansion and is capable of serving more than 1 million square feet of customer space.


2019 marked the completion of two new DEC plants, serving the Nebraska State Penitentiary and new LES Operations Center.


“There are many benefits district energy brings to our community,” said Deb Schorr, DEC Board President. “By eliminating the need for individual boilers, chillers and cooling towers, developers and owners save on costs to install, operate and maintain them while increasing usable space in their buildings.” Architects are also able to more freely design projects without the need to account for this equipment, making future buildings more visually pleasing. “Plus, with fewer cooling towers on rooftops, the city’s skyline is much improved,” said Schorr.


Beyond physical, visual improvements, district energy is environmentally responsible, lessens the burden on local taxpayers by lowering operation costs and reduces demand for electricity across the service area. “A reduction in electrical demand not only lowers carbon emissions but also can help Lincoln Electric System keep its overall rates lower, potentially attracting even more business to our city,” said Dan Dixon, DEC project manager.


DEC has been keeping customers cool in the summer and warm in the winter since 1989. In the beginning, the nonprofit organization served 115,000 square feet of space for the City of Lincoln and Lancaster County. Now, 30 years later, DEC serves approximately 3.8 million square feet of Lincoln restaurant, retail, hotel, event, living and office spaces along with city, county and state facilities.





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