Kick-off in Eeklo: Start of the First Heat Network Cluster

17 September 2021 - Published by Antonia Krebs
Last week on Wednesday, 8 September 2021, the COBEN team celebrated together with the Flemish Minister of Energy, Zuhal Demir (N-VA), a milestone event: the official inauguration of the first heat cluster in Eeklo. The COBEN partner Veolia nv-sa is developing a sustainable heat grid together with the citizen cooperative for renewable energy Ecopower and the city of Eeklo.

This event marked the linking between the existing sports infrastructure, a new investment in a high-quality heat pump, and the connection via a heat network with a new apartment development of Groep Huyzentruyt. The link with the boiler room of the swimming pool site will make individual gas boilers for the new-build apartment block by developer Huyzentruyt unnecessary. Heating and domestic hot water for the residential units will therefore mainly be done with sustainable heat from a heat pump. In the event of malfunctions and peak heating demand, the gas boilers of the swimming pool site can still fire.

Heat networks can deliver an array of community benefits, such as CO² reduction, community acceptance of renewable energy infrastructure, and the creation of local jobs. Besides at least 35% of direct citizen participation in the project development, other benefits for residents include, e.g. reduced fire insurance costs, guaranteed access to heating, additional space in their homes and access to sustainable energy. With projects like this, Veolia and Ecopower have the intention to create a leverage effect against energy poverty in the region. In the long term (3rd phase), the aim is to expand the Eeklo heat network to serve the swimming pool site - and these linked apartments - with residual heat from the closeby IVM incinerator. Therefore, the heat network aims to be 100% sustainable in the long run, as it will only run on residual heat and renewable energy. The minister is convinced that Eeklo sets an important example for other local authorities and defines the path for the future. In addition to solar and wind energy, Ms Demir stated they want to further invest in heat networks. 

[You can find some of the news coverage of that day on the following sites (in Dutch): AVS; Nieuwsblad; HLN]

The COBEN team used this opportunity to connect the event with a ‘real life’ project meeting in Knokke-Heist, where we received an introduction to another of Veolia’s pilots: a planned desalination plant running on surplus offshore wind energy in Knokke, a region that frequently experiences fresh water and drinking water shortages during the summer months. We discussed the benefits, challenges, and ethical implication of this endeavour – while also talking about the future of COBEN.

Foto: Inauguration of the first heat cluster in Eeklo (from left to right) Rik Zinnemers (Gemeente Emmen), Yanti Ehrentraut (Provincie Oost-Vlaanderen), Peter de Vylder (Veolia nv-sa), Zuhal Demir (N-VA), Antonia Krebs (University of Oldenburg, COAST), Siegbert van der Velde (Gemeente Emmen), Elsie Haertjens (Veolia nv-sa), and Lars Nautrup Jensen (Ringkøbing-Skjern Kommune)