A cooperative district heating network in Malempré

 A cooperative district heating network in Malempré
Published by Frédéric Praillet on 11.03.2015

A project involving citizens, loggers, farmers and local authorities to lead a village towards energy neutrality...

A citizens' project

Initiated by a few residents of this small village in the municipality of Manhay, including the farmer Vincent Sépult who wanted to diversify, this district heating project, in operation since February 2014, is now supported by a cooperative.

A local project

It took four years to convince local authorities and residents, find funding and design the facility that consists of a collective boiler fired with wood chips. This centralized production unit supplies a series of underground isolated pipes designed to provide hot water and heating to the villagers. To bury the approximately 1500 m pipe cost, the company has benefited from the refurbishment of water pipes and thus the opening of the road.

The heating system currently covers half of this village of 240 inhabitants, forty buildings, private homes and public buildings such as schools, rectory or church. In the future, the local cooperative aims to supply the entire village and offer residents an energy independence using forest and agricultural products available near the village. The town has 7000 acres of woods which are more than adequate for this project. To be completely autonomous, the cooperative relies on the creation of a second farmers' cooperative that could self-produce the fuel.

A social project

At a social level, the project is very innovative because of its collective aspect. It is also an opportunity to strengthen ties between the people of the village. They are sensitized in a very concrete way to energy issues. They discover that it is actually possible to be involved in their future by overcoming the current dependence on oil. The cooperative has decided to cap the cost of energy sold to residents, allowing, particularly in the most disadvantaged, to more easily anticipate the cost of their bills.

Local economic impacts

Economically, the project emphasizes local employment. Local companies were hired to carry out the work for a total investment of about € 950,000. For the management of the boiler (wood-chips production, accounting, maintenance, ...), local businesses also benefit from the project. The heating system should also allow farmers to diversify.