RE/SOURCED is a project with a clear aim: using circular economy principles, construct a renewable energy system on a brownfield urban site that benefits both private citizens and commercial users. The creation of the facility must follow circular principles and the users must have a say in how the system is operated.
This looks straightforward but, as well as breaking new ground with the technical design of the system and its use of circularity, the project was also breaking new ground in terms of what is allowable legally. The energy market is highly regulated and has clearly defined parameters for what can and cannot be done.
RE/SOURCED tested the regulatory “status quo”. It did not mean to do this but found it necessary to take action after its original plan to use a Regulatory Sandbox was discouraged. This led to a number of project implementation “dead-ends” that have delayed progress. These were principally caused by disagreement amongst key energy system stakeholders on how best to proceed.
In parallel, the project’s implementation concurred with the onset of the COVID19 pandemic and the global restrictions introduced on physical meetings and travel. The pandemic also led to a number of market distortions that have affected materials and systems supply, as well as their market prices. Public procurement of key project elements has been directly affected - through non-responses from the market and higher prices.
Through the MUA/Lead Partner’s (and the wider partnership’s) sustained tenacity which involved lengthy discussions of potential alternative proposals with stakeholders and submitting an Interpretative Question to DG Energy, progress is now being made. This has largely been down to the Lead Partner raising the profile of the project within both the Flanders government and its energy system stakeholders. The use of a Regulatory Sandbox, previously disallowed by the Distribution Systems Operator (Fluvius), is now considered to be viable. At the time of writing, it is proposed that the partnership will develop a specification for a Sandbox jointly with Fluvius, thereby reducing the likelihood of blockages downstream.
These hurdles have impacted progress. The SMART Grid’s technical Blueprint is only now being finalised. This impacts upon the specification of key technical elements of the project that are dependent on the Blueprint’s spec. The project was originally anticipated to complete in June 2023. The current projected completion date is December 2023 but there are significant physical construction and technical implementation tasks to complete before then. Slippages may occur due to unforeseen events.
To conclude, the project had a clear goal but was diverted off course by significant challenges. Its progress is now back on track but delays have been incurred and the legacy impacts of COVID19 remain. Through the tenacity of the partnership, in particular the Lead Partner, the project has managed to retain a key goal of generating renewable energy that benefits both commercial users and private citizens based at the Transfo site. This is a significant achievement.