On the way to becoming a climate-neutral city
Sustainable developments are needed to prevent climate change. Towns and districts can play an important role here
Dutch city of Nijmegen looking to systematically reduce emissions
Nijmegen would like to become the very first climate-neutral town in the Netherlands. In order to achieve this aim, the local authorities have put together a whole variety of very different initiatives – from setting up a sustainable mobility system to building intelligent district heat networks. The overall goal of all these measures is to ensure that the city’s energy supplies are as efficient and as climate friendly as possible.
Nijmegen, which is situated close to the German border, has 165,000 inhabitants and is the oldest town in the country. This Hanseatic city succeeds in uniting traditional values with future-oriented ideas and its ambitious plan is now to have Nijmegen become a carbon-neutral town by 2045. City Councillor, Jan van der Meer, commented: “ARN B.V. will be playing a decisive role in our attempt to reach our environmental goals.” This waste management company is a public private partnership, in which REMONDIS owns a 40 percent share. The majority shareholders are three municipal associations which belong to a large number of the districts in the Province of Gelderland.
An initiative supported by the city and local businesses
A complex, multi-layered and long-term project is required to turn a city into a climate-neutral place. Nijmegen has already made great progress over the last few years. Everything began in 2008 with the foundation of the Nijmeegs Energy Covenant (NEC) and it is not by chance that the name brings the city’s professional football club, NEC Nijmegen, to mind. ARN was one of the joint initiators of the Nijmeegs Energy Covenant. Uniting the public and the private sector, the NEC represents the mutual efforts being made by all involved to cut energy consumption – with the overall goal being to cut the equivalent amount of gas and electricity consumed by 181,000 households each year. As a result, CO2 emissions can be cut by 905,000 tonnes over a three-year period.
Generating gas and electricity responsibly
The decision was made two years ago to have all public transport buses running on biogas from 2013 onwards. This, in turn, led to ARN building a digestion and composting facility for organic waste. This plant was completed in October and will now produce 2.5 million cubic metres of climate friendly gas (natural gas quality) each year. The new facility is located approximately five kilometres away from Nijmegen in the town of Weurt. ARN also operates a thermal treatment plant on the same site where it produces energy using secondary fuels. “Each year, we feed around 160,000 MWh of electricity into the national grid,” explained managing director Gerard van Gorkum.
“We want to be the first city in the Netherlands to become climate neutral – this is both a challenging and an important task.” Jan van der Meer, member of the Nijmegen City Council
Climate-friendly heat for new residential areas
In addition to supplying electricity, the PPP company will also be providing district heat in the future, as the Nijmegen city council decided to set up a district heat network a few months ago. Plans are for ARN to supply 3,000 existing and 11,000 new-build homes with district heat before 2015. Compared to homes that are equipped with individual heating systems run on primary fuels, this district heat network can cut CO2 emissions by up to 70 percent. The district heat supply contract has been concluded for a 30-year period. If the maximum possible amounts of CO2 emissions are to be saved, then it is important that ARN’s plant runs at its current level of performance on an ongoing basis. Jan van der Meer commented on this saying: “We are really pleased that this precondition can be guaranteed thanks to REMONDIS’ involvement.” ARN’s supply of district heat is also being supported by the Agentschap NL, an agency belonging to the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation. This agency promotes exemplary developments in the area of sustainability. By providing financial support, the country is also emphasising just how relevant this project is for the environment.
Towns take on a key role
Nijmegen in the Netherlands, Masdar City in Dubai, Perth in Australia, Lingang New City in China and Civano in the USA: all around the world, cities are striving towards becoming climate neutral. A recent study published by the Fraunhofer Institute has confirmed just how effective such initiatives are: “Whilst towns are the cause of the problem, they are also the solution as we move towards creating a sustainable society.” According to the institute, approx. 80 percent of all CO2 emissions are generated in or around towns and it is in these areas that the biggest reductions can be achieved. As a result, the Fraunhofer Institute says, large conurbations in heavily urbanised countries “already have a considerably lower carbon footprint per inhabitant than rural areas or than the country as a whole.”
ARN is one of the few companies in the Netherlands to produce energy from secondary fuels
According to the NEC, huge amounts of CO2 emissions can be cut within the next three years if energy consumption is systematically reduced