Belgium: free energy for 430 Brussels households and lower CO2 emissions thanks to start-up Watt Matters, committed individuals and EIB-Belfius partnership

Source: European Investment Bank

A Brussels-based start-up is presenting a self-financed solution to make CO2 savings of 27% and provide energy to a jointly owned building of 430 apartments in Anderlecht, Brussels (rue Marius Renard 27)
A new roof will be paid for with green electricity produced by a cogeneration facility with performance of almost 100%
This innovative financing was developed with citizen cooperative Energiris and citizen’s platform Ecco Nova (almost one third), and the EIB and Belfius (two thirds), making it possible to implement this project (worth almost EUR 1m) without a financial contribution from the joint owners
Start-up Watt Matters and its partners – including the EIB together with Belfius – have inaugurated an innovative and remarkable project based on an unprecedented form of financing for a jointly owned building. The joint owners of the 27-storey Marius Renard 27 building in Anderlecht, Brussels, have benefited from a complete renovation of their roof (which is 100 m high) without having to make any financial contributions, as Watt Matters fully financed the total project cost (EUR 950 000). Watt Matters is covering the cost of the project (almost EUR 1m) via a form of third-party investment based on eco-citizen financing (the Energiris cooperative and crowdlending platform Ecco Nova) and a Belfius-EIB loan. The repayment of the investment made will be covered by selling the cogenerated green electricity back to the network. This production will also make it possible to cut the jointly owned building’s energy costs by around EUR 40 000 a year while also reducing CO2 emissions by 27% (i.e. 292 tonnes a year) for heating and power in common areas. The Watt Matters – Marius Renard 27 operation is an innovative project crying out to be repeated.
Two “Made in Brussels” energy efficiency boosters
On a technical level, this remarkable project is benefiting from innovations helping to recover every last unit of heat. A natural gas-powered cogeneration system is a generating set (electricity generation) in which heat that is normally lost is recovered and used to heat a building and produce hot water (heat production). The sound integration – one of a kind in Belgium – of two energy efficiency boosters into the cogeneration system by Vanparijs Engineers and ABC Technics provides energy efficiency of close to 100%. In this innovative process, an initial heat pump converts air from inside the cogeneration system – heated to 30 °C by the radiant heat of the cogeneration motor – into heating water. A second heat pump further cools the exhaust gases from the cogeneration system to maximise the recovery of condensation heat.
Individuals take action to help an endangered planet
2018 has seen several climate change upheavals and, according to the Global Carbon Project (GCP) 2018 report, after an increase of 1.6% in 2017, global fossil fuel-derived CO2 emissions are likely to be subject to an even more significant rise of around 2.7% this year. On the ground, a multitude of individuals are taking action in the face of the climate emergency and are not hesitating to get involved – particularly from a financial perspective – to help an endangered planet. Watt Matters is an offshoot of citizen cooperative Energiris – whose members provided EUR 195 000 to finance the project – while other individuals contributed EUR 99 000 in financing via the Ecco Nova platform. Also of note is the high participation rate (91.5%) among the Marius Renard 27 joint owners.
Belfius and the European Investment Bank – key partners for the energy transition
This project benefited from financing under the Belfius Energy Efficiency Package (BEEP), developed in Belgium by Belfius and the European Investment Bank (EIB) as part of the EU’s Private Finance For Energy Efficiency (PF4EE) programme. This initiative aims to stimulate and facilitate investment in energy efficiency and decentralised renewable energy generation. This package is not only for the great number of businesses wishing to invest in energy efficiency directly but can also be used to implement similar projects benefiting, among others, companies, public administrations, hospitals, schools and public and private sector non-profit organisations, by way of an energy sector company acting as a third-party investor, as is the case with Watt Matters. Thanks to the terms of the EU funds, the exclusive EIB guarantee and the partial refund of energy audit fees (for businesses), Belfius plans to use this kind of financing to make a practical and targeted contribution to cutting CO2 emissions in Belgium, thereby combating global warming. The EIB (the EU bank) has placed climate action among its strategic priorities and implements products tailored to provide the best support for innovative and efficient public and private sector projects in the fight for our planet.
The renovation of jointly owned buildings in Brussels still looks like an insurmountable challenge
The potential of the residential sector – 75% of which is made up of apartments – is huge, however. It accounts for 38% of total energy use in the Brussels region (7 313 GWh in 2016), representing 1 400 000 tonnes of CO2 emissions a year and a total annual energy bill of around EUR 500m. Energy audits indicate that a 30% reduction could be achieved will a package of cost-effective measures within ten years. “Meeting this objective involves EUR 1.5bn of cost-effective investments in the energy transition of homes in Brussels,” said Ismaël Daoud, manager of Watt Matters, the Brussels-based start-up that has already invested EUR 4.1m in the city.
Brussels is the only region favouring cogeneration in jointly owned properties
In the “green electricity” decree of May 2011, the Brussels Government proposed changing how green certificates were granted to make cogeneration cost-effective within five years for jointly owned buildings in the city. The multiplier used helped compensate for low cost effectiveness caused by the resale of practically all electricity produced by cogeneration on an extremely low tariff. The Brussels Government proceeded to strengthen the green certificate market in December 2015, then increased the multiplier for cogeneration in jointly owned buildings with the ministerial decree of 14 June 2017. As the two other regions have not followed its example, Brussels remains a niche for developing this technology in jointly owned buildings thanks to the five-year return period.
Watch the clip from Canal Z TV news on the inauguration – click on this link (in French)

MIL OSI