A Flemish renewable energy landscape, what could it look like?

Just like any other region in Europe, Flanders faces the challenge of a full transition from a fossil energy system to a renewable and sustainable energy system. This means that the amount of installed renewable energy installations needs to multiply drastically. But where will we put them and what will their spatial and societal impact be on this larger scale?

Together with Posad (NL), UGent and ResourceDesign, 3E executed a thorough study that researched possible answers to these urgent questions. This research project, called ‘Energy Landscapes’, was launched by a consortium of VLM, VITO, VEA, Team Vlaams Bouwmeester and Ruimte Vlaanderen.

The first part of the study was an in-depth analysis of the current state. What is the current land use in Flanders? What is the maximum potential for renewable energy sources in Flanders? How much wind, solar, biomass, etc. is available? What is the spatial impact of the technologies necessary to capture this energy? This analytics phase gave the team an idea of the state as is and what the ultimate potential could be.

The second phase of the project translated this info into 3 future scenarios and 2 practical case studies, Albertkanaal and Roeselare. The aim was to research through design what the potential energy production and land use could be, where the bottlenecks lie today but also to identify what opportunities a fully renewable energy transition could hold for the Flanders region. How can we maximise renewable energy production in Flanders and use it to address some of the other spatial challenges we face? What would have to change to make this shift possible?

3 scenarios

The “Business as Usual” scenario started from the current land use and legislation. The aim was to investigate how far Flanders could go in the energy transition without changing anything to the current spatial situation. Considering the spread out urban tissue and the highly fragmented landscape in Flanders, it became clear quite quickly in the case studies that a status quo in spatial planning and legislation around renewable energy integration is unacceptable. It can only lead to an incremental change in renewable energy production and will never allow for a significant share of renewables in Flanders.

The “Energy as a driver” scenario started from the opposite end of the spectrum. What if we don’t take into account current land use and legislation and let energy production be the primary driver? In the case studies, this would lead to a maximal deployment of large scale renewable energy installations with little to no regard for the current land use and spatial planning. Although not being a desirable scenario in most parts of Flanders, in some specific regions like e.g. highly industrialised areas like the Albertkanaal it could be a potential scenario. It would allow for a significant energy production in regions where the demand is also very high and bring supply and demand closer together.

The “Synergy” scenario chose the middle ground between the two previous ones. It aimed to look for potential synergies between large scale renewable energy production and other spatial challenges Flanders is currently facing like a lack of recreational space, enormous urban sprawl, etc. A possible synergy could be densifying cities to free up space outside the city for recreation combined with energy production. The idea behind the synergy concept is to not just add another layer to the landscape but to use energy production as a link between existing layers to integrate them better.

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Info: 3E (www.3E.eu) – Reshape Innovation (www.reshapeinnovation.com)