By Geert De Clercq
PARIS (Reuters) – Paris plans to expand its urban cooling system, which uses a network of underground water pipes, and make it available to small companies and residential buildings as global warming increases the number of aircon units in the city, deputy mayor Jean-Louis Missika said on Monday.
Paris, in partnership with French utility Engie, operates a cooling grid using water from the Seine river, but the 75 km (47 mile) network mainly services hospitals, hotels, museums and department stores. It has no residential customers.
“We do not want global warming to lead to a profusion of individual aircon units. These are inefficient, polluting and they add to local warming. And they are ugly,” Missika told Reuters on the sidelines of an Engie seminar.
France has seen a series of heatwaves in recent summers and on July 25 the French capital recorded a temperature of 40.6 degrees Celsius (105 degrees Fahrenheit), the hottest since records began.
Missika said Paris wants its Climespace cooling network – Europe’s biggest – to cover 100% of the city’s area over the next 20 years, from about 43% today, and make it available to non-institutional customers.
“It must be possible to connect the cooling grid to residential buildings as well as to small businesses,” he said, adding that the city is already discussing this with social housing operators RIVP and Paris Habitat.
The expansion of the cooling network will be part of the criteria in a new tender for the operation of the network, which for the past 30 years has been run by Engie unit Climespace, which had 2018 revenue of 91 million euros ($100 million).
Paris has a minority stake in Climespace, via Paris urban heating grid operator CPCU, which is 66.5% owned by Engie and the rest by Paris.
Missika said the city plans to organise a tender in 2020 with a view to put a new operator in place by February 2021.
Asked whether it would be conceivable that the tender would not be won by long-time Paris partner Engie, Missika said he expected many firms will want to bid for the 20-year contract.
He declined to comment on potential bidders, but insiders say these could include Dalkia, the energy services unit of French utility EDF, and energy infrastructure group Idex, which is owned by investment fund Antin and operates the heating and cooling grid of Paris business district La Defense.
Missika said Paris is also looking into bringing natural cooling into the 19th century Haussmann buildings that make up a large part of its housing stock, by using defunct chimneys for ventilation.
(Reporting by Geert De Clercq, editing by Louise Heavens)