Stephan Brandligt maintains that Europe possesses a treasure trove of renewable energy resources that have yet to be discovered. Stephan Brandligt is the Vice President of Energy Cities and the Deputy Mayor of Delft. The energy price problem has sparked heated political arguments about the bloc’s energy security, with fresh calls for centralized energy supply solutions like hydrogen or nuclear power. This one-size-fits-all thinking is leading us perilously close to making sub-optimal investing decisions. The risk of focusing too much on the intricacies of transitioning to the climate-neutral energy balance is that it will oversimplify the issue in the end. As a result, short-sighted conclusions emerge, such as the common assertion that renewable energy is too unreliable and that backup gas or nuclear power plants are required, period.
The involvement of local governments in his own country, the Netherlands, means that energy delivery is no longer a black-and-white issue. It’s more of a vibrant patchwork of responses that vary depending on the local environment and particularities.
For example, the city of Delft has used an “energy zoning” strategy to proactively manage its energy mix, looking at resources and requirements district by district and identifying the best energy solution for every neighborhood in collaboration with local stakeholders.
This is a winning recipe in and of itself for resolving the social acceptance issue that is once again limiting the expansion of renewable energy capacity in a large number of European locations. They may observe the benefits of “local heritage” by looking at district heating as well as cooling systems, which are tied to the history, geography, and overall identity of an area.
Paris is home to one of the world’s oldest and largest district heating and cooling networks, as well as a vast geothermal potential that currently serves roughly 250, 000 households. The district heating network in Växjö, Sweden, is entirely fueled by sustainable biomass energy derived from adjacent forest wood waste and wastes from the local paper industry.
Underground hot water from flooded coal mines supplies heat to city residences in Heerlen (the Netherlands). How many more examples like this are they overlooking right now? Researchers estimate that mine water is the biggest underutilized energy source in the United Kingdom, with one-fourth of people living above past coal mines.
All of these unconventional, available locally energy sources are frequently ignored in national planning and future energy mix predictions.
If the Fit for 55 packages succeeds in reversing the top-down central planning rationale, it might be a game-changer. The European Commission has already recommended including a provision in the Energy Efficiency Directive to organize heat planning at the municipal level for towns with populations of more than 50,000 people, forcing the Member States to assist them to the “maximum degree practicable.” This clause is extremely important because local governments are currently understaffed and unable to effectively analyze and harness local potential.