Interview with City of Antwerp: How PLANHEAT Supports their Climate Goals

One of the pioneers for district heating in Belgium, Antwerp has defined its sustainability goals as early as 2011 and has ever since been working on implementing these goals. PLANHEAT partner Euroheat & Power/ DHC+ Technology Platform had the opportunity to speak with a representative of the city of Antwerp and find out more about their ambitious climate plans:


Mr. Verbelen, the City of Antwerp has engaged actively in the Belgian and European energy transition. What is the motivation and what steps have you already taken?

First, the city of Antwerp has always set ambitious sustainability goals. Starting with the Covenant of Mayors and more recently the aim of becoming a climate neutral city by 2050. As a consequence, extensive action plans have been developed, addressing a multitude of mitigation and adaptation issues. Several measures have been defined and are being deployed: energetic renovation of buildings, energy efficiency of retailers and SMEs, mitigation of risks such as flooding, drought, heat stress and air quality, and the decarbonisation of our energy systems …


What are the biggest decarbonisation potentials for Antwerp?

To tackle the decarbonisation of the city’s energy system, the city of Antwerp has developed an extensive demand and supply mapping. These maps revealed a major opportunity for decarbonising the energy system: Approximately 500MW of heat, at a temperature of 80-120˚C, is released in the atmosphere by the large petrochemical cluster located in the city’s port. This could largely meet the space heating demand of the city.

Currently the space heating demand is almost exclusively met by gas boilers at building level. To make use of the available excess heat, a district heating infrastructure needs to be built. To do this in a build environment, requires careful planning, both spatial and financial. Spatial and financial restrictions need to be taken into account e.g. the value of existing infrastructures that could become obsolete, heritage protection, conflicting underground spatial claims,… The first step stone of this infrastructure is already in use in a new sustainable city development project called New South.


What are the reasons why Antwerp has decided to be a PLANHEAT project partner and act as validation city?

By combining our city’s datasets on the built environment, demographic trends, energy demand and supply and existing energy infrastructure, a strategic energy plan can be developed. The PLANHEAT promise of providing a tool that can guide us in this process as well as providing the necessary analysis and simulation algorithms made us join the consortium.


What does Antwerp aim at with the outputs of the PLANHEAT tool? Are there already plans to use the heating and cooling scenarios for implementing concrete projects?

We will use the PLANHEAT tool to develop a strategic energy plan. The scope of this plan will be the energy transition that has to be completed by 2050. For each city neighbourhood the plan will present the feasible scenarios to become carbon-neutral. We expect to see that district heating will have a great share in these scenarios. The results will have a direct impact on the spatial planning process that will have another major iteration at the same time the PLANHEAT project will deliver the city’s strategic energy plan.

The strategic energy plan can be considered as a masterplan from which specific projects can be implemented.


The PLANHEAT project started in October 2017, nine months ago; in this period of time, have you already experienced any benefit from joining this European project?

As we are developing the strategic energy plan in cooperation with our DSOs and in parallel to the PLANHEAT project there is a cross-pollination between both processes. Together with the DSOs we are already thinking how we can define feasible scenarios based on objective parameters. The resulting insights are valuable for the PLANHEAT project. The other way around the PLANHEAT project has developed a very sophisticated demand mapping solution. This could mean a great reduction in workload for the city and its partners.


More information on Antwerp