Renewable Energy Solutions for Urban communities based on Circular Economy policies

Edited on 04/03/2024

Renewable energy

Project proposal by

  • Institution : Intermunicipal association Leiedal
  • City : Leiedal
  • Country : Belgium
  • Type of region : More developed
  • Population : 315 342

Partnership complete

The RE/SOURCED project is led by the intermunicipal organisation Leiedal in its role as co-owner of Transfo, a former (listed) power station site located in the municipality of Zwevegem (Belgium). Contemporary Transfo has benefitted from substantial urban regeneration and the UIA project focused on the design and implementation of an innovative renewable energy generation, storage and distribution system that benefits local residents and businesses. Specifically, a DC (Direct Current) backbone was created that maximises the efficiency of the renewable energy that is produced on site.


The project had six partners supporting Leiedal: Zwevegem Municipality, University of Ghent, Province of West Flanders, Flux 50,, and the Flemish Institute of Technological Research (VITO).    


What SOLUTIONS did the Urban Innovative Action project offer?


RE/SOURCED offers the prospect of affordable, renewable, locally-produced and autonomously managed electricity for the users and residents of the urban regeneration project that is called Transfo. These essential characteristics have even become more relevant during the project lifetime.


Since 2019, the year Leiedal developed the UIA project, the world has become ever more aware of the fact that the increase of renewable energy goes hand-in-hand with increased demand for materials like lithium, aluminium and copper – these have to be mined and processed, using very significant amounts of energy in the process. Thus, there is a drive to ensure that the transition to renewable energy systems is more sustainable and is based on circular economy strategies. Circularity is a central goal of the project.    


What DIFFERENCE has it made at local level?


RE/SOURCED is breaking new ground on technical, regulatory and citizen engagement levels. A local energy community, in which all users participate, manages the shared infrastructure and stimulates co-operation.


The partners are focused on ensuring that the energy infrastructure created through RE/SOURCED will best meet the needs of the growing Transfo community. This community includes 68 families, 4 small companies, 3 sporting facilities (climbing hall, diving tank, adventure sports) and several event and exhibition locations. Seven more buildings will welcome new initiatives (restaurant, B&B, etc.).  RE/SOURCED also entails an educational programme for citizens and children, and a separate training package for professionals, facilitating the adoption of the RE/SOURCED process by other cities.    


What PARTICIPATORY APPROACHES have been put in place for the project?


The Transfo regeneration project exemplifies the inclusive and multi-partner engagement of a broad range of different stakeholders. RE/SOURCED utilised the partnership-building experience gained through taking Transfo from a derelict factory to a vibrant community.


Together with the RE/SOURCED partners, the Transfo community has designed the governance model, financial model and legal model of the energy co-operative. This co-operative will manage the shared infrastructure and stimulate co-operation. The partners are focused on ensuring that the energy infrastructure created through RE/SOURCED will best meet the needs of the Transfo community now and in the future. This engagement is central to the approach.    


How does the project tackle different aspects with an INTEGRATED APPROACH?


RE/SOURCED sits at the crossroads of energy efficiency and circularity. It tries to tie together these two important challenges. An additional challenge is the integration of the investments in renewable energy solutions within the context of built heritage: RE/SOURCED coincides with the geographical scope of the Transfo heritage site. This multi-user site is growing into a balanced, multifaceted and layered ecosystem that is similar to thousands of neighbourhoods across Europe. 

RE/SOURCED complements ‘hard’ investments with ‘soft’ investments: the circular smart grid is not a stand-alone solution, it will be woven into the daily life of the people who work in, live in and visit this neighbourhood. The circular smart grid will be shared by its residents, companies and organisations. 

RE/SOURCED includes an educational and training package, linking the investments to learning opportunities for schools, citizens and renewable energy professionals.

The outputs of RE/SOURCED also reduce the operational costs of the listed site and attract more visitors, two main conclusions of the peer review of the URBACT INT-HERIT project that preceded the UIA RE/SOURCED project.    


Why should other European cities use the solution the project explored?


RE/SOURCED capitalises on the clean energy revolution that is gaining momentum all over Europe, boosted by the Clean Energy for all Europeans Package which puts the consumer at the centre of the energy transition with a clear right to generate, store, sell or share their own electricity. The results of RE/SOURCED are therefore highly relevant for other urban authorities in Europe.

The transferability is closely linked to the adoption of the Package in national regulations. Some EU countries might already allow the implementation of a similar project, in other countries this will not yet be possible, or only within a regulatory sandbox.