HOT|COOL NO. 4/2018 - "Emerging District Heating Markets"



So, there is a real sense of urgency and public support for investing in sound and sustainable solutions. And district heating is without any doubt one of them: the smart use of surplus heat is both efficient in avoiding emissions and in offering the possibility of a long-term, sustained change in energy supply. That is why ISVAG, the intermunicipal waste management organisation in Antwerp, also wants to pick up the gauntlet. We treat the non-recyclable household waste of more than 1 million citizens in the region. Our plant has been operational since 1980 and for nearly two decades we have been generating electricity for more than 25,000 households. Thanks to the efforts of OVAM, the Flemish waste administration, we are world champions in prevention, waste sorting and recycling. But even in the transition to a circular economy, a considerable amount of non-recyclable residual waste will remain in the coming decades, which will need to be processed. We need a safe sink to remove polluted substances. The construction of a brand new high-tech waste-to-energy plant is creating the impetus for ISVAG to focus even more on energy efficiency. In the past, our motto was that we process waste with the least possible impact on the environment. Now we go a step further and we are even turning that motto around. We want to have the greatest possible impact! A positive impact. We want to make a significant contribution to ensuring a stable supply of energy, and allowing a substantial amount of emissions from numerous small private combustion plants in the region to disappear.

1. Ambitious goals: Like almost anywhere in Europe, both federal/regional governments and local authorities are committed to a climate-neutral policy and to reaching carbon goals by 2050. 2. Huge potential for reducing emissions in Flanders: The major cities in Flanders – Antwerp and Brussels – unfortunately also suffer the most from air pollution. Traffic jams have a huge impact, and like most old cities, Antwerp and Brussels have narrow streets that can get snarled up with trucks and cars. Older houses, often much less well or completely not insulated at all, and heated by oil, natural gas or even wood stoves, have a major impact on the air quality in and around our cities. 3. People are fed up with air pollution: Ordinary citizens are getting organized and are calling on their politicians to act, at the ballot box as well. Measures are being taken – the city center of Antwerp for example, is a low emission zone – yet it is already clear by now that fighting air pollution caused by traffic alone will not suffice in order to reach the climate-neutral goals by 2050. 4. Belgium is facing an unprecedented energy supply crisis: Belgium is facing a shortfall in electricity production capacity this winter. The risk of a scenario with possible ‘black-outs’ has never been higher. The government has made it clear that there is no way back. Our nuclear power plants have to disappear, and renewable energy is the only way forward. Flanders must and will meet its climate targets. But in a region like ours, with many days when the sun is barely visible, a lot of windless periods and, above all, little free space available, we will have to pull out all the stops.

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