Community approach In some neighborhoods, a community approach was taken. Local inhabitants joined together and established a cooper- ative DH venture, often with help from the municipality. This process typically takes a lot of effort and results in one small neighborhood switching from natural gas to DH with their own source, often heat pumps. Whereas the cooperative itself is a member’s democracy, com- munity cooperation leaves the freedom of choice of the heat source, the service providers, and the energy supply compa- nies to the neighborhood, thus approaching the individual freedom of choice. We designed a step-by-step process that standardizes the whole process of preparation, communication, finding enough participants, building, and exploiting the DH system. In two pi- lot projects in Nijmegen and Arnhem, we are improving and testing this approach. In the meantime, we are working together in a coalition with EnergieSamen, the Dutch union of energy cooperatives, Kli- maatverbond Nederland, a union of public organizations that aims for climate solutions and sustainability, and Rabobank, one of the large Dutch banks which is a cooperative itself. The coalition works on institutionalizing the community approach and seeks support from the national government. The designed process, the lessons learned from the pilot pro- jects, and the coalition’s work led to the desired standardiza- tion. It makes the cooperative solution scalable and bankable, thus making it efficient to establish. This leads to the opportunity for over a thousand neighbor- hoods in the Netherlands (varying from 200 to about 1,000 houses) to make the transition from natural gas to a sustaina- ble heating source.
Technical approach The community approach needs to be supported with standardized solutions that are technically robust and economically viable. We devised our approach based on earlier experience with traditional DH and some experi- ence using heat pumps. We want our solution to be: 1. Modular We aim to exploit readily available local sources of environ- mental thermal energy by upgrading temperature to usa- ble levels with heat pumps, to avoid large upfront invest- ments in long-distance transmission pipelines. However, the availability and cost of local sources may vary consid- erably. In some places, ground or surface water is easily accessible; in other areas, you need to drill hundreds of meters to gain access. In general, we want the best quali- ty thermal source available at the lowest cost. Modularity must give us the flexibility to adapt while allowing us to employ most of our solutions unchanged. We decided to start with perhaps not the best, but indeed the most ubiquitous heat source available: outside air. 2. Scalable It is a lot easier to get small projects going, whereas shar- ing common costs and scaling advantages work in favor of bigger projects once you have them. We want to be able to serve small projects as well as larger ones, and we want to be able to connect nearby small projects to cre- ate bigger ones. Modularity must serve this exact purpose. The intent is to reuse a component that has become too small due to local growth in some projects that are just starting elsewhere. 3. Sufficiently low temperature yet practical Heat pumps work most efficiently at low-temperature lift, that is, the little temperature difference between source
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