Province of Noord-Brabant governments jointly take on wind and solar development

Seven municipalities in the Dutch province of Noord-Brabant and the Province have decided to jointly generate sustainable electricity in wind and solar farms. They will do this through a recently established public development company. This puts the region in a unique position in the Netherlands.

The seven municipalities are Dongen, Gilze-Rijen, Goirle, Heusden, Loon op Zand, Oisterwijk and Tilburg, from the central Brabant region. The province of Noord-Brabant participates through the energy fund Energiefonds Brabant. With this development company (Publiek Ontwikkelbedrijf REKS B.V.), the government wants to keep control of the energy transition, guarantee local ownership and invest in climate measures within the region.

From Climate Agreement to public implementation organisation

The Public Development Company stems from the 2021 Regional Energy and Climate Strategy (REKS). In it, nine municipalities, three water boards and the province of Noord-Brabant laid down how the region contributes to the goals of the Climate Agreement (Klimaatakkoord): emitting at least 49 per cent less CO2 in 2030 than in 1990. In a public development company, profit maximisation is not paramount, but a social objective is pursued. The Public Development Company strives for a sustainable energy transition through integral area development, also taking into account nature development and infrastructure and housing wishes.

Energy hubs

One example is the coupling of solar and wind energy in energy hubs. These energy hubs can also consider the storage and conversion of electricity, for example by converting it into hydrogen. Eight search areas have been designated for this purpose in the REKS. The municipalities have defined these search areas in their policies and remain the competent authority on spatial planning. The Public Development Company will take on the development of a number of energy hubs, but the authorities, on the basis of their public duties and responsibilities, ultimately determine where this can be done by issuing a permit.

Map showing search areas for energy hubs in Hart van Brabant (source: REKS 1.0, July 2021)

Speed up the energy transition

According to the authorities, the Public Development Company allows for more control on the development of wind and solar farms than when left to market parties. By keeping control of the development process itself, the development company can speed up more the energy transition. This is needed in order to reach the goal of 1 Terawatt hour of sustainable electricity generation in the region by 2030.

Local participation and local ownership

The Public Development Company also sees benefits in taking control of wind and solar generation itself, by being able to guarantee neighbourhood participation and local ownership. Moreover, people who participate themselves and become shareholders in a wind farm or solar park, for instance through a local energy cooperative, are more positive and more involved. The Public Development Company will strive for at least 50 per cent financial participation by residents in the realisation and exploitation phase of wind farms and solar parks, as also set out In the Climate Agreement and its Regional Energy and Climate Strategy (REKS).

Government as shareholder

The deed of incorporation for the Public Development Company was signed on 13 July. The private limited company (bv) has the participating municipalities and Energiefonds Brabant as shareholders. The municipality of Tilburg reserves €5.9 million in share capital, the other regional municipalities together €5.2 million. The province participates through a participation by the Energiefonds Brabant (EFB), with the Brabantse Ontwikkelings Maatschappij (BOM) as shareholder. The EFB is also putting in €5.9 million. These amounts will eventually be contributed in phases, based on development progress.

The contributed money serves as working and development capital, separate from the EUR 4 million that will be transferred to the Regional Climate Fund. In doing so, the governments as entrepreneurs run a financial risk, as do market parties. After all, costs come before benefits.

Waalwijk and Hilvarenbeek

The seven municipalities work together with other municipalities from the central Brabant region. Their cooperation is laid down in the joint arrangement ‘Regio Hart van Brabant’. Another municipality, Hilvarenbeek, will decide today whether to join. The municipality of Waalwijk is already further along in the process of achieving two energy hubs on its territory and has chosen to take up the development itself.

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