There were many sessions in which knowledge and experience was shared in the field of collective heating systems. We explain the two striking contributions that concern the Collective Heat Act (WcW), which will be introduced in 2025.
What does the WcW mean for the roles and responsibilities of participants in the generation, transport and release of sustainably generated heat?
Heating companies with public interest
During one of the first parallel sessions, Keesjan Meijering and Eelkje van de Kuilen from law firm AKD explained who will still be allowed to participate in the heat transition when the Collective Heat Supply Act (WcW) will be introduced in 2025. Meijering: “It may sound over the top, but we really get to deal with strict market regulation. The municipality will become the director of the heating transition, the whole chain will be organized and there will be strict obligations for heating companies.” It is slowly becoming clear who will be allowed to develop the heating networks, says Van de Kuilen. “These are heating communities or heating companies with a public majority interest. Only if these options fail, there will be room for other types of heating companies.”
The requirements for a public heating company are now also clear, she says. “It must be a public company with a majority stake of at least 51% . This public party must also be a direct or indirect shareholder in the heating company.” The WcW offers plenty of space for heating communities, Van de Kuilen explains. “These can be energy cooperatives, but also small companies or governmental bodies. It is important that in this case the heating company must offer benefits to its members, partners and/or shareholders. A logical form for a heating community is a cooperative. The question is what must be done with any profits made. How can this be returned to the customers?”
Business case for new heating networks uncertain
The upcoming Collective Heat Supply Act (WCW) has hit private parties like the proverbial bomb. “Logical,” says Marko Marskamp of AT Osborne. “As it currently looks, the minister wants the new law to put the infrastructure of heating networks in public hands. For many private parties, this comes across as a form of expropriation. They are now taking a moment to reconsider making new investments. That is why it is all the more important that municipalities take control, as also indicated in the new law. In doing so, they provide the clarity needed to continue making progress in the heat transition.” But that means quite a bit for municipalities. Previously, they could sit back and leave the realization and operation of a heating network to the market. Now they have to choose how they themselves will play a role. “Leeuwarden wanted to be prepared for this,” says Ivo Westra of AT Osborne. “This municipality already had plans for (geothermal) heating networks together with the market. But investments in these plans were paused due to uncertainties surrounding the new WcW. In anticipation of the WcW and with a focus on the heat transition, Leeuwarden wanted to investigate what role it can best play itself.”
It is important that the WcW provides clarity and leeway in the roles and responsibilities of participants in the generation, transport and delivery of sustainably generated collective heat. The big question that remains is how municipalities can be supported – organizationally and financially – to carry out this task.
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