27 may 2009

Apeldoorn, in the Netherlands, Wants to Believe in Solar and Wind Power

by Grégoire Allix,Le Monde, May 27, 2009
[Truthout translation by Leslie Thatcher]

Out of the question to give up, in spite of the problems: "In 2020, all energy consumed in Apeldoorn will have to be renewable, without fossil fuels, without nuclear power, and produced in our own city." With graphs for support, Michael Boddeke, the official in charge of sustainable development for this city that looks like a blossoming village at the center of the Netherlands, is optimistic: solar, wind, and biogas from organic waste and wastewater should suffice to warm and light this town of 156,000 residents. On one condition: "Reduction of buildings' - both old and new - energy consumption by half."

Except this ambitious program, launched in 2000, has already failed to meet its first goal: the town was supposed to reach a renewable energy threshold of 10 percent in 2008. They're not there yet. And the plan does not include transportation, even though the city has developed a hybrid bus model and although half the population goes to work by bicycle.

"It Must Take Off."

The municipality has experienced the bitterness of a voluntary policy that takes time to show its impact. "The first ten years allowed us to conduct studies and settle on our road map," deems Mr. Boddeke. "Now, it must take off."

But the city did not stand idle. Apeldoorn signed partnerships with gas and electricity suppliers and with the waste management sector, and is encouraging companies to join this zero carbon objective by moving into the Ecofactory, a green industrial park. The municipality also encourages social housing agencies and developers to make buildings ecological and grants up to 20,000 Euros in subsidized loans to owners who invest in insulation or solar panels.

From neighborhood to neighborhood, the city bears witness to this green progress. Adorned with photovoltaic cells, the little red brick houses with black tile roofs of the Kruizemuntstraat constitute the biggest undertaking in Europe for the provision of solar panels to a housing project. In Groot Hoefblad, colored cubic residences display "vegetized" roofs for better thermal regulation. In the white buildings of Zuidbroek, 300 apartments heated by biogas produced by the wastewater treatment factory prefigure a neighborhood of over 3,000 habitations, the first expected to achieve the city's energy objective, even before 2020.

But negotiations are dragging on to decide where windmills should be located and the widespread use of biogas is taking more time than forecast. And 45,000 residences of the 60,000 in Apeldoorn are still thermal sieves. "We don't always know how to convince our fellow citizens. There is very strong inertia," Mr. Boddeke admits. Yet, without getting discouraged, all the same: "Setting a radical objective is the only way to mobilize the population. If we don't reach our goal until 2025, that's not so bad."

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