Steinhagen and Woerden: Old friends, new energy
Steinhagen in the state of North-rhine Westphalia has been twin city with the Dutch city of Woerden since 1972. Together they are part of the project “Energiewende Twinning Towns”, aiming to learn from each other in the field of Renewable Energies, en route to achieving their climate targets.
The 21.000 residents of Steinhagen want to live fossil-free by 2050 at the latest. Their Dutch partners are even more ambitious, targeting to be a CO2-neutral city without fossil fuels by 2030. The climate target also includes their departure from natural gas, which is especially widespread in the Netherlands since the discovery of the gas fields in Groningen.
Woerden takes a holistic approach to achieve its climate targets: Besides renovating the city hall, rental housing was renovated climate-friendly, E-charging stations within the city were put into operation and energy storage tested. There are around 400 solar power systems installed on the city hall. A closer look at the city will reveal a climate-neutral school, new terraced houses with photovoltaic systems as well as Renewable Energy projects in co-operation between the corporate sector. The industry is also participating in the town’s commitment: the industrial park would like to reduce its energy consumption by 20 percent until 2022. Woerden has recognized that not only the local administration, citizens and the economy have to be part of the energy transition, but also the surrounding region needs to integrate renewable energy. This is why Woerden is currently developing a Regional Energy Strategy that defines which renewable energy technology will be used in which areas.
Steinhagen is similarly committed to climate protection, which can be seen in various climate protection concepts for the commercial sector, mobility and the municipality itself. In 2015 the city covered 22 percent of its energy demand with renewable energy. The municipality has installed solar thermal energy, biogas plants, geothermal energy and a small hydropower plant. Also, wind turbines were built with citizen participation. Furthermore, the municipality-owned local public utility delivers renewable electricity to small customers. Also here, the holistic approach comes into play, as municipality-owned local public utility has installed charging stations to support its renewable mobility transformation. A common concept for electric charging stations for bicycles and cars supplement the already existing climate protection concepts of the city.
“Current topics such as climate protection and the energy transition are important for everybody – including the European level. We can only achieve a common understanding and solutions to these current questions through intensive exchange while being open to learn from each other. Steinhagen and Woerden are definitely ready to hit the ground running!” Klaus Besser, Mayor Steinhagen.
“We want to design our future together! Therefore, every resident of Woerden shall be part of the energy transition, but also the region around us and of course our European partners from Steinhagen!” Tymon de Weger, councillor department for sustainability in Woerden.
On 11th October 2019 the municpality of Steinhagen visited its partner Woerden. The Steinhagen delegation with actors from politics & administration, business and organised civil society travelled to the workshop by bus, with many questions on how the energy system transformation in Woerden works. Mayor Victor Molkenboer welcomed the guests from Germany in the newly renovated town hall. A film about the importance of local climate measures and the activities of the Woerden community served as an introduction to the topic.
In the further course of the morning, there were a series of lectures which gave concrete form to Woerden's activities in the field of energy system transformation and sustainability. The town hall, for example, was extensively renovated and is almost energy neutral thanks to geothermal energy and photovoltaic systems on the roof. The open, bright offices with flexible workplaces were shown and the people from Steinhagen were able to discover great innovative elements, such as the canteen with mobile phone charging stations, which receive electricity from their own cycling.
In the afternoon, the group was divided into three excursions. The first excursion started with a lecture and a visit to the first energy-neutral supermarket of the LIDL chain in Holland. The second excursion group visited the Kreuger pig farm, which deals intensively with the balance between a financially healthy farm, animal welfare and the environment. With community bicycles and electric cars, the third group was on the road, the first to visit the Stonecold company, which acts as a service dealer for air and water heat pumps and itself focuses on a sustainable energy supply, with 156 solar collectors on the roof supplying the electricity for the heat pumps in its own building. All excursion groups came together again in the sustainable office building MeetInOffice. Finally, the dinner was accompanied by a photo review of the day. After a short presentation by Sandra Oosterhout about a sustainability project in Nambia, with the participation of the Woerden Citizens' Committee, and finally a warm farewell by both mayors, the Steinhagen delegation returned inspired. The return visit of the delegation from Woerden to Steinhagen is already planned.