March 15, 2023
While most energy communities are active in the production of electricity, heating is an area holding a lot of potential, even if it requires higher initial investment. The Netherlands hosts some great examples of community district heating. The Thermo Bello project in the Eva-Lanxmeer district of Culemborg is one of these examples, the firsts of this kind in the Country.
The topic of collective heating was already a priority for the Eva-Lanxmeer district in 2000, when a Heat Supply Framework Agreement was concluded between the water company Vitens, the Municipality of Culemborg and the residents’ association (BEL). This agreement defined the first elements for the development and operation of a collective heat supply that became fully operational in 2004. The heat station was part of Vitens’ drinking water pumping station. In 2006, when Vitens, decided to focus its services on the extraction and supply of drinking water, BEL was offered to take over the heat production and distribution.
The residents of Eva-Lanxmeer had always been very involved in public life: from landscape and public green spaces, to traffic safety, water management and food production. That is why eventually, after 2 years of research, they decided to set up their own citizen energy cooperative: Thermo Bello. The cooperative supplies low-temperature hot water to 222 homes and 7 commercial properties via an underground distribution network located in the district.
Culemborg municipality offered a guarantee so that the cooperative could obtain its first bank loan to finance the initial phase in 2008. In 2021, when it was time to upgrade the system, Thermo Bello financed those works via a mixture of bank loans, citizen capital and using their own capital. They got 350 000€ from the bank (via a 10-year loan at 2,7% rate), around 100 000€ from clients/citizens, and 100 000€ from their own saved capital, based on performance of the previous years. Now they have no debt anymore, which will make it easier for banks to finance future investments.
But Thermo Bello is not “only” about heat. The cooperative does not only manage heat supply and distribution, making sure it’s as energy efficient as possible. They also educate residents to reduce their consumption and on local energy production and are very keen in sharing their knowledge with other groups who might want to follow their steps.
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