RE/SOURCED aimed to create a new energy community on the former TRANSFO site. TRANSFO was a derelict coal fired power station within Zwevegem municipality. As with many urban regeneration and renewal projects, investment in Transfo was governed by the topology or footprint of the site which has an area of 25 acres and accommodates offices, sporting facilities, event halls, outdoor amenity space, a brewery and 70 residential units.
The aim was to create a novel and innovative renewable generation system that would serve all energy customers within the site’s boundary. RE/SOURCED would take the form of a local electricity SMART microgrid, so that electricity generated and stored within the district would be available to those located there. The SMART microgrid would have access to the public electricity network so that it could “import” electricity when local production fell short of the district’s demand needs and that it could “export” in times of surplus.
The SMART microgrid’s governance would be delivered by users based within the site.
At first sight, the aspiration to improve the amenity for the benefit of local users would appear to be an aspiration that is typical to many urban regeneration activities – areas are improved for the benefit of those who live and work in the area.
However, it will be seen from this note that while this is a core attribute of urban regeneration and improvement projects, the aspiration did not align well with the workings of the energy markets, in particular energy market regulators. This Zoom-In note focuses on the regulatory barriers in particular as these have emerged as the most significant hurdles for the project. They are also the most likely ‘trip points’ for other cities and municipalities and public bodies considering projects of this kind – and given the current energy crisis facing Europe, there are significant opportunities to support such projects.
The project encountered a number of fundamental hurdles and the partners have had to step back, think, and identify how best to respond so as to keep the core vision for the project alive, while accommodating the feedback from industry stakeholder organisations in particular.
In this regard, the experience of RE/SOURCED partners is likely to be very relevant to all organisations that are engaged in area improvement and regeneration and who are considering supporting locally based renewable electricity generation by their residents and businesses.