Getting on the road to affordable and carbon-neutral energy

social economy impact finance green & social

Recently, ASTER participated in Energy Mission 2022 an event that focused on a crucial aspect of the energy transition and energy supply: its affordability. The event was organized by Energyville, Flux50, POM and Thor Genk and was held in the offices of ENGIE in Brussels.

ASTER is an cooperative created by the Flemish Social Housing sector to finance, invest and manage the massive roll-out of solar PV on social dwellings in Flanders. They have one goal and that’s making the social housing sector more affordable and sustainable, a goal it gladly shares.

Sébastien Garnier participated in the panel on behalf of ASTER to explain how ASTER was created, organized and financed. ASTER aim to install and manage around 50.000 PV installations in the coming years. He also showed how this was a sustainable and social win-win: the solar panels achieve a CO2 reduction linked to the energy use and lower energy prices for social tenants. These kind of large-scale sectoral initiatives also lower the dependency on fossil fuels and offer more decentralized and local opportunities. On the question “how can a new small cooperative can gain financial support from large banks, such as Belfius and the EIB?” he responded that some of the key elements that need to be aligned are: motivated social housing organizations; a dedicated project team with experts from different fields; an adequate legislative framework; the funding of technical assistance; and, not least, a constructive collaboration with enthusiastic actors and partners in Flanders.

Other panellists were Kris Peeters, vice-chairman of the European Investment Bank – which has helped to kick-start ASTER through its Elena program; Truike Vercuysse, head of Sustainability at Belfius – which is also the financier of ASTER; professor Mark Sanders, professor International Economy at the University of Maastrichts and Board member of the Sustainable Finance Lab Research Program; and Frederik Loecks, CEO of Flux50.

Pieter Lodewijk from Energyville presented the PATHS 2050 – The Power of Perspective Platform, a data-driven roadmap with three different scenarios - each of them describing another possible route for the journey towards carbon neutrality by 2050. Some takeaways for the residential sector in Belgium were that, no matter which scenario, the key to decarbonise the residential and commercial sectors is renovation, increased insulation and heat pumps, with a special role reserved for district heating fed by waste heat, deep geothermal energy or centralized heat pumps. The PATHS 2050 report states that a cost effective trajectory towards a net-zero 2050, shows rapid investments in building insulation and a complete phaseout of fuel oil by 2030. Electric heat pumps and - to a smaller extent - district heating and biomass replaces the fuel oil boilers. Natural gas use decreases with more than 20% by 2030. By 2050 there is a complete shift from natural gas to electric heat pumps and a limited amount of district heating as well. This way, final energy demand in these sectors decreases from 122 TWh today to 70 TWh by 2050, which is a 43% efficiency improvement. Electricity demand amounts to 62 TWh or 89% of the final energy use.

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