Local Energy Cooperatives: bottom-up is key

05 November 2020 - Published by Deirdre Buist 2
The Dutch Municipality of Noordenveld in Drenthe is eager to take major steps towards creating a sustainable living environment in their village. This can only succeed with the support of the local inhabitants. Which is why the Municipality was very pleased with the initiative taken, in 2017, by the local Energy Cooperation Noordseveld. A bottom-up collaboration is key to energy efficient neighbourhoods.

The Energy Cooperation Noordseveld wants to tackle energy efficiency, amongst other things, together with the locals. Their neighbourhood or community approach matches perfectly with the ambitions of the Municipality and the opportunity to collaborate was seized with both hands.

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Future-proof neighbourhoods

Both parties use an integrated method, whereby social cohesion and the public domain are priorities. Together they strive for sustainable, future-proof neighbourhoods with a pleasant living environment for young and old, each within their own capacities and capabilities.  The Municipality develops policies, facilitates and involves local stakeholders from their own network, based on relevance and expertise. The Energy Cooperative Noordseveld (ECN) is a non-profit green energy supplier run by volunteers. The cooperative works with 100 local energy co-ops and the regional Energie Van Ons to form a strong, citizen-led coalition for renewable energy in the three northern Dutch provinces.

From and for the community

On a practical level, ECN provides the public with information about energy efficiency measures. They carry out thermal scans and provide energy coaches to support homeowners in assessing needs and possibilities. Moreover, the ECN plays an active role in collectively generating renewable energy – from and for the community.

Heating Transition vision paper

The ‘Energy Communities’ of Roderwolde and Norg-West are up and running, while a third – Kortland in Peize – is ready to go. The Municipality of Noordenveld is also working, with input from ECN, on a vision paper - The Heating Transition - which describes the best alternatives for natural gas heating on a neighbourhood level, as well as the most ideal time for transition. By 2050 natural gas must be totally phased out.

Frontrunners

As mentioned, the desired approach to the heating transition is bottom-up and per neighbourhood, in line with the Energy Communities concept. These communities are the frontrunners in the local heating transition. When completed, the vision paper will provide a roadmap for the following energy communities.

Effective cooperation

Again, the cooperation between the ECN and Noordenveld has proven very effective. There are numerous advantages to continuing and expanding this collaboration:

  • Both parties want to raise awareness, engage and enable the inhabitants in energy transition

  • Both are aiming for a sustainable living environment

  • Cooperation and exchange of knowledge on all levels offers multiple benefits

  • There is a reciprocal recognition and respect for each roles and achievements

  • This joint citizen support is focussed, coherent, efficient and recognizable for the inhabitants.

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People are central

Sufficient capacity and tight management is needed when facing the many challenges of the energy transition. The Energy Communities in Noordenveld form a great basis but both the Municipality and ECN want to adapt and expand the structures already in place to ensure that the next steps can be tackled efficiently and with success. The next step is to find a good model that allows  local SMEs, professionals and knowledge institutes to participate. Always keeping in mind that people, end-users - the inhabitants of Noordenveld – are central!