Green certificates/ guarantees of origin for clean heat – an option for geothermal?

Winter time in Amsterdam, Netherlands (source: flickr/ 143720381@N02, creative commons)
Alexander Richter 16 Mar 2020

Guaranteeing the sustainability, local origin and climate neutrality for electricity through certificates is known, but a market is developing for guarantees of origin/ green certificates for heat as well. How this could effect geothermal heat will have to be seen.

An article shared in the Netherlands caught my interest talking about green certificates/ guarantees of origin for heat. The concept of certifying green energy is known from the power sector, but it is the first time I hear about this in the context of heat. The article though does not cover geothermal, which is a bit surprising given the push for geothermal heating in the Netherlands. There are though clearly interesting elements here in the context of the clean heating geothermal has to offer in replacing fossil fuelled heating systems across the world.

So here a translation of the article by the Dutch Heat Network Foundation (Stichting Warmtenetwerk).

Since 2013 there have been Guarantees of Origin (GOs) for heat, which give customers the assurance that the heat is produced locally and climate neutral. How does the GOs system for heat function now, what is the added value of green certificates for various parties and what developments can be expected in the near future?

Organic waste flows from the Amsterdam region – such as organic waste from households and companies, and residual flows from the food industry and catering – are used locally. “In the enormous fermentation plant of Orgaworld in the Amsterdam port area, biogas is made using bacteria. By burning, the biogas is converted into green energy and heat, ”says Joop Suurmeijer, manager strategic accounts & innovation at Orgaworld, part of Renewi. Since 2010, Orgaworld has supplied the sustainable heat – enough for 1,200 to 1,500 households – to the heat network of Westpoort Warmte (a partnership between energy supplier Vattenfall and waste processing company AEB Amsterdam).

Guaranteed CO2-free heat

The residual heat from Orgaworld has a Guarantee of Origin (GoO). A GoO is proof that the heat supplied is generated 100 percent sustainably. Residual heat networks achieve CO2 savings of between 45 and 85 percent compared to gas-fired boilers. Using heat with GOs, heat is also available with which customers can completely minimize CO2 emissions.

The green certificates allow producers and suppliers of heat to demonstrate the extent of the CO2 reduction of a heat network. In this way, municipalities, housing corporations, real estate developers and other business customers can demonstrate with the purchase of certified heat what exactly the connection to the heat network yields for achieving their sustainability objectives.

Special products

Orgaworld collaborates with Vattenfall to offer heat with a GoO as a special product to (large) business users of district heating in the northwestern part of Amsterdam. Under the name Heat Select, Vattenfall, together with local producers, also supplies certified green heat in the regions of Rotterdam, Arnhem and Nijmegen.

A thorough administration system has been developed for this purpose, which keeps track of the debits, says Daniël Awater, advisor at Vattenfall Heat Nederland. “It is legally regulated that CO2-free heat produced by a source on the heat network can only be purchased by a user who is connected to the same heat network. Furthermore, we do not want administrative double counting. Heat with a GvO falls outside the regular district heat supply. That is why we reserve part of the heat in advance with a GvO from Orgaworld for potential customers. The sustainable performance of that reserved part is not included in the CO2 reduction that the heat network already achieves anyway and which we record in a quality declaration. ”

Awater points out that the reserved sustainable GoOs are currently only partially sold to customers. “However, all sustainably produced heat from Orgaworld gets a good destination on our heat network. But what we don’t want is that we will have GOs short in time. ”

Sustainable heat certification

CertiQ has been appointed in the Netherlands to issue GOs for both electricity and heat. According to relationship manager Ivo de Vries of CertiQ, there is a growing interest in certificates for sustainably produced heat.

“A GoO is necessary to receive an SDE subsidy as a producer of sustainable heat,” explains De Vries. A producer who has received a decision for the SDE subsidy is obliged to register the installation with CertiQ. RVO consults the GVO application of CertiQ to check data. “The actual number of commercial transactions is somewhat lower than the number of parties that show interest. The system for GOs for heat is in fact still in its infancy, certainly compared to green energy. ”

Awater adds: “We expect demand to grow and that this option will contribute to the development of new, sustainable sources for the heat network, such as heat from surface water and solar collectors.”

Extra step in sustainable business operations

“Companies that use district heating can improve their CSR performance with GvOs for heat,” says Awater. “For example, they can show internal and external stakeholders that they use fully renewable heat.” Awater already sees a lot of interest in this from organizations such as municipalities or educational institutions, which have the ambition to – further – reduce their carbon footprint. Heat with a GO is suitable for organizations that want to take an extra step in their sustainable business operations, and – just as is the case with green energy – have a slightly higher rate.

In practice, Suurmeijer also sees another added value of the heat that Orgaworld produces. Koopman Car Terminal is located a stone’s throw from the fermentation installation in the Westelijk Havengebied. Two years ago, the company used natural gas to heat the office spaces and drying tunnels, says Suurmeijer. “Koopman Car Terminal has deliberately opted for fully sustainable heat from Orgaworld. This gives the company an edge in, for example, (international) tenders, because companies that operate sustainably take precedence over competitors who do not. ”

GOs and energy performance

According to De Vries and Awater, there is an obstacle to the further demand that sustainable heat does not count in various energy performance labels, such as the energy label and the NZEB requirements for new construction. Sustainable heat may be (partly) included in the BREEAM method. More clarity is expected in the course of this year.

De Vries expects GvOs to receive more and more attention for heat, especially if large urban areas turn off the gas. CertiQ would like to see a number of things better arranged. “CertiQ is in favor of a renewed Heat Act in which responsibilities and roles are assigned more clearly and a measurement code for heat is introduced. As the focus increasingly shifts to sustainable heat, this need will grow. At the moment, we still have to act too much as a grid operator with regard to GoOs for heat. ”

Just like green electricity, green heat should also become a common term, says Suurmeijer. “We are very enthusiastic about it and see a lot of potential. People may still have to get used to it, just as they did with green energy back then. He hopes that in the long term, households will also have the opportunity to purchase heat with a GO, even from sources that are not connected to their specific heat network. This increases the freedom of choice and thereby stimulates market forces. Awater adds: “We hope that more attention to renewable heat will lead to more sources that we can link to the heat network.”