How can we make a city climate-neutral and therefore low-carbon? Europe is stimulating this quest because it wants more sustainable, decentralised and digital energy networks. Cities often have good ideas, but they lack the expertise and the opportunity to try out all kinds of systems.

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In the ACCESS project, Mechelen in Belgium, Amersfoort in the Netherlands, West Suffolk Council in the UK and Malmö in Sweden are investigating how to achieve this goal using a systematic approach. They are looking at how they can make the transition to local and renewable energy production and storage without endangering the stability of the grid. In doing so, they can draw on the expertise and structure of four knowledge partners: Aarhus University, Johannesberg Science Park, IfM ECS and Energyville/VITO. Together, this should result in a systematic, scalable approach that leads to pathways and action plans that contribute to energy transition and the realisation of (local) climate ambitions. The result of the cooperation is a toolbox that provides replicable methods that can be adopted by other authorities in the region with a minimum of cost and effort.

It is no coincidence that precisely these four cities are involved in this project. After all, the North Sea region has been at the forefront in this field for some time. Many new technologies - such as the scaling up of renewable energy sources and decentralised energy networks - have already been successfully developed in this region. Backcasting is used to plan a future low-carbon energy system. Backcasting is a planning method that involves defining the outcome that one wants to achieve in the future and working backwards from that definition to establish the policies and programmes needed to link the present to that outcome.

Mechelen, pilot city

The City of Mechelen is participating in this project with the Keerdok parking building. The building will be a testing ground for a local energy community. With the resources that Europe is making available for the ACCESS project, a local energy network (LEC) will be set up at building level. If the results of this pilot project are positive, the intention is to roll out this local energy network over the entire neighbourhood of the Keerdok site at a later date. The combination of solar panels, battery storage and smart charging infrastructure for electric vehicles in a smart grid should ensure that the use of fossil energy is drastically reduced, and peak loads on the grid are reduced. By joining this initiative, Mechelen is putting the intentions it formulated in the climate action plan and the signing of the Covenant of Mayors into practice. Mechelen is therefore also co-investing in this project.

EnergyVille/VITO as coordinator

EnergyVille/VITO will not only coordinate this project but will also further improve the existing policy support tools for urban energy strategies.


Interreg ACCESS project

Keerdok Mechelen

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