Practices

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Towards energy autonomy in Beckerich (LU)

Wyróżniony Przypadek January 2014
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Beckerich, a town of 2300 people in western Luxembourg, is well known for its objective of becoming energy independent. The implementation of this ambitious vision, embodied by the dedicated Mayor, Camille Gira, is bearing fruit in terms of local economic development.

Bekerich is a member of the European Network of local authorities CLIMATE ALLIANCE and has been a signatory of the European Commission’s Covenant of Mayors (CoM) since 2008. The town is committed to reduce CO2 emissions by 30% by 2020 and to become energy self-sufficient by 2025.
Today Beckerich produces 90% of its low-tension electricity needs and 30% of its heating demand. Moreover, the town tries to derive maximum benefit of the extensive wind, solar and biomass potential specific to rural areas.

Beckerich started on the path towards energy self-sufficiency at the beginning of the 1980’s and has thus developed from a rural town plagued with structural problems into a regional “centre for climate protection”.

In 2004, 19 farmers founded a biogas cooperative, treating manure to produce energy.
The total investment amounted to € 5 million, being 50% funded by the Ministry of Agriculture and 50% financed by a loan. In addition, each farmer also contributed with an investment of € 4000 (i.e. € 76000 in total).

In 2008, a very large district heating network based on biomass was installed. A wood incinerator plant for heat energy was created as another alternative energy source: the wood chip boiler has a peak load of 2 MW and is supplied with G50-100 sized wood chips (Figure 1 shows the heat exchanger inside the boiler); the two buffer tanks have 54 m³ each (Figure 2, silver, in the background) and there are 5 expansion tanks of 5 m³ each (Figure 2, red). Figure 3 shows the supply chain for the biomass heat plant and includes the transport distances.

In 2010 almost 5,7 GWh of heat have been provided to the heating network, of which half has been generated by the wood chip boiler, the other half by biogas. More details on the system are shown in the table below (referred to year 2010):

Water tank9,9 m³
Buffer storage2 x 54 m³
Expansion tank5 x 5 m³
Connected households140
Connected SME (small and medium enterprises)7
Connected communal buildings17
Total heat in district heating network5 659 827 kWh
Share of heat by wood chips2 730 000 kWh
Yearly amount of ashes10 m³

 
The wood comes from the 700 hectares of Beckerich’s forests, out of which 400 hectares belong to 260 private owners. The municipality developed an exchange system based on a 15-year contract with forest owners who benefit from a discount on their energy bill in exchange for providing wood to the incinerator. At present, 150 homes are being heated with this system, which produces around 30% of heat consumed in the town. Friendly prices were set for low-income households so that every person can access the system.

Today the cooperative produces electricity and hot water for some 700 families delivered through 14 km of district heating pipes. The municipality buys the heat produced and resells it to the citizens.

In 2012, Beckerich raised € 500 000 by selling heat. Local energy production is also important from an economic point of view: the town avoids global oil and gas trading by utilizing local fuel sources, which means that the money for energy is re-injected into the local economy. This has created jobs (at least 15 long term jobs have been created), raised the living standard and brought enormous benefits to the whole community.
The biogas cooperative and the wood incinerator have had also a profound effect on the local environment: there is a significant reduction in CO2 emissions from the use of more sustainable and renewable energy sources.

Photovoltaic solar energy provides 5% of household power consumption (Figure 4). The roofs of municipal buildings are available free of charge to groups of citizens who want to install solar panels; they can then use the revenues from the electricity generated this way to reduce their power bills.
A project is now underway to set up four wind turbines of 1,8 MW each.

Whilst Beckerich is making the most from the wind, solar and biomass potential specific to rural areas, its SEAP (Sustainable Energy Action Plan) has shown that the future emphasis must be placed on saving energy. The municipality provides energy audits, grants, interest-free loans to low-income households and retrofits to municipal buildings via contracting. Since 1994, Beckerich’s electricity consumption has decreased by 7% compared to a 3% increase in Luxembourg as a whole.

In the field of information technology, a Geographic information system (GIS) (Figure 5) has been installed in Beckerich and in other communes in the Redange canton for finding and developing renewable energy sources (RES). Additionally, Beckerich has implemented a cadaster of energy, as this community intends to become an Energy Plus Community.

The cadastre contents:

  1. Data collection of all buildings (heated surface, roof potential for solar energy use, classification of all buildings in age and energy consumption, data combination of building, person and address)
  2. Multiple scenario analysis to provide a radical heat saving scenario
  3. Assign consumption to age and groups of buildings in order to illustrate where the remaining energy potentials actually are and thus, to reach full autonomy.

Acronym of the case

Beckerich (LU)

Lessons learnt

A glance into the benefits enjoyed by the people of Beckerich shows that small-scale sustainable projects do work. Local energy production is also important from an economic point of view: money stays in Beckerich, benefits local economy and creates local jobs. “100% RES Communities” or local authorities with an objective of becoming energy autonomous, are no longer isolated examples. Rather, their numbers are steadily growing: some have already reached this objective and others are well on their way. Several case studies from around the world showcase solutions and best practices that are waiting to be applied on a large scale.

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Camille Gira explains: "To launch these activities we have had to sort out the issue of funding – no easy task. We started by setting up a private company with 150 small stakeholders. If there is no funding available from government or banks, get it from your citizens! If the money is well invested, people are ready to pay. You should always show people what you do with their money, so communication is essential. This company now employs 12 people and is considered the 'Silicon Valley' of Beckerich."