“Heating is not an easy topic for residents to engage with”

What are SCCALE 20 30 50 pilots up to? We spoke with Melissa de Witt, process supervisor at Grunnerger Power, about the challenges of getting residents to work together and join Buurtwarmte district heating network.

Up to now what has been the most challenging part of your project? How have you dealt with it?

The most challenging part  is finding ways to involve and inform all the residents of the neighborhood we are working in (Selwerd-Zuid). In this neighborhood there was not an initiative or a collective of people working together before, so we had to contact the residents individually…and heating is not an easy topic to pitch! It is difficult to get people to work together for a common district heating networtk, we have learnt a lot from our experience in Selwerd-Zuid that we can apply to the other neighborhoods we want to engage.

What has been the most important moment for your pilot so far?

That would be the moment when we realised we had enough people who signed the declarations of intent to connect to the district heating network. The project could have not continued otherwise!

How close are you to reach your project’s goals?

We have reached the first goal, of having 60% of the citizens in the targeted neighborhood Selwerd-Zuid committed to the project with a delcaration of intent. We expect that this percentage will be higher in the other targeted neighborhoods, approximately 70%, because there we have already some organised group of residents with good experience.

How are you contributing to the development of new projects/energy communities?

Our cooperative is active in many neighborhoods in Groningen. We can guide residents in starting an initiative, especially where there is not such experience. For example, in the neighborhoods Paddepoel and Vinkhuizen citizens are already organized as an initiative. We are preparing the citizens in the other targeted neighborhoods for the arrival of the heating network through introductory meetings and knowledge sessions.

What is the next step for your project?

We will continue to work with the residents in the current neighborhoods and also capitalise on our lessons learnt, so that we can work better and easier with the residents of the next neighborhoods we are involving. In particular, over the following months we are going to:

  • send all the residents that signed the declaration of intent a contract to connect to the district heating network;
  • convince them to sign a contract with Grunneger Power, to become members and co-own the heating company WarmteStad;
  • explain the construction process of the network to the residents;
  • collaborate with the municipality of Groningen and the district heating company WarmteStad, to define how residents can co-own the public district heating network

You want to start an energy community but don’t know where to begin? Express your interest in SCCALE 20 30 50 Helpdesk

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