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Geothermal development and municipal involvement in Utrecht

Geothermal development and municipal involvement in Utrecht Nieuwegein, Utrecht, Netherlands (source: flickr/ Frans Berkelaar, creative commons)
Alexander Richter 8 Apr 2021

Collaboration of geothermal developers with the municipalities they are planning to serve is important, here in the context of Utrecht, Netherlands.

The planned geothermal development efforts in Utrecht, Netherlands have been in discussions for quite some time. In January 2021, the development group Warmtebron Utrecht (Heat Source Utrecht)  announced a preferred location for continuing research into geothermal energy in the province of Utrecht.

It has been a bit quite since then and in an interview published on the group’s website, Joris Peijster, Lean Project Manager of Warmtebron Utrecht and Hans Slootweg, Sustainability Advisor of the municipality of Nieuwegein provide an update on the current status of the efforts.

Assessment framework

In response to the announcement of our preferred location, the Municipal Executive has announced that the municipality first wants to establish an assessment framework for geothermal energy. “Only then can we talk about locations,” says Hans. “The city council then indicated at the end of January that the extraction of geothermal energy to make the district heating network more sustainable could be a realistic option.

But the council has also said that the assessment framework for assessing this must first be tightened up with measurable and realistic indicators. The municipality is working hard to organize this. With the tightened assessment framework, the municipality is testing whether the extraction of geothermal energy in Nieuwegein is possible in a socially responsible manner at proposed suitable locations.”

Continue alignment

Carefulness in the process is extremely important, according to Joris. “It is up to the municipality to develop its own assessment framework in order to be prepared for a possible proposal for a location. That takes a little more time than we had estimated in advance. That means that we also have to redo our own schedule. That is why we are now making agreements with the municipality to have clear from both sides where we stand. ”

“In the coming period, we will be pausing and looking at what needs to be done in order to continue with Lean. At the same time, this offers peace and space for conversations with the environment and the municipal and political decision-making process.”

Future perspective

One of the most important conclusions from the consultation that is now being conducted is that more time is needed. The energy transition in itself is already complex, pioneering geothermal energy as a relatively unknown energy source gives this challenge an extra dimension. According to Hans, the development of geothermal energy in and for the built environment requires more time, space and commitment in the planning phase we are now in: “Lean offers a great opportunity for making district heating more sustainable. It is crucial for the municipality to carefully weigh up all interests within our legal possibilities. This requires making the conditions concrete with the council and the city, but at the same time also cooperation with Warmtebron as initiator.

Peace, space and trust

Joris: “We will be pausing in the near future and looking at what needs to be done in order to continue with Lean. At the same time, this offers peace and space for conversations with the environment and the municipal and political decision-making process. The joint approach must result in a project plan with an adjusted course on which our partners and grant providers can base the confidence that the project is feasible. And of course that also applies to the environment. ”

Source: Warmtebron Utrecht