There exists unrealized potential for small and micro-scale hydropower generation that is environmentally acceptable (low rpm wheels with small run-of-river systems may have net positive impacts on environment and fisheries), economically sustainable, and in aggregate has the potential to generate significant green electricity to meet EU goals and bring financial benefit to the residents. By bringing standardized permitting and environmental assessments, pre-arranged financing, standardized engineering and preparing a strong and supportable regional cooperatives with a community shares ownership driven business plan for creating regionally owned and operated sites.
The Energy sector today in Belgium faces new challenges: energy efficiency, climate change, increases in fuel prices, transition to renewable energy (with EU 2020 targets). Addressing those challenges will need some new way of thinking and creativity.
One answer to the transition to renewable energy is to tap into the potential of decentralized microhydroelectricity in Belgium. There are hundreds of historical watermills or other structure that could be refurbished to produce green energy, taking advantage of the Green Certificates incentives. This new solution offers many advantages compared to other sources of energy: proven and robust technology (lifetime over 50 years), valorization of historical heritage, tourism, educational opportunities, ecofriendliness, steady source that stabilizes the Grid, etc…
Refurbishing an average site would cost around 100.000€ on average to set up (including analysis, grid connection ,etc…), 2000€ to run, and would bring revenues of more than 7.000€ by year (1/2 through GC). Generating power would be around 5 kW, producing nearly 40 MWh by year (enough to feed 11 households), while saving more than 20 tons of CO2 eay year.
Today this potential is largely untapped due to an exclusive focus on other renewable sources (Wind and Solar), some misconceptions about microhydro (not efficient, …) and primarily because of fear of permitting process (quite heavy and complicated), and the access to funding : banks are not interested in such small projects.
NettoWatt SPRL addresses those barriers with the right competencies, extended communication toward the public and decision makers, and a big scale approach to make those projects bankable. NettoWatt finds several potential sites in one region (through partnership, public database, or own investigations), proves their feasibility (technically and regarding permitting) and profitability, and helps create a local Cooperative to implement and run them. Investment funds come from the Banks, Shares Offering programs from the Cooperative, and public subsidies (especially EU structural funds). This way the ownership of the sites stays in the Regions, along with the revenues and the responsibilities, in the hands of the citizens. NettoWatt SPRL is remunerated by a lump sum for the risk taken and the effort to choose and analyze the portfolio of projects, set-up the Cooperative, and raise the money, and by a management fee (decreasing over time) to help manage the Cooperatives.
Corporate Governance is key for us. We are proud to call ourselves an ethical company and as such adhere voluntary to a code of ethics (share of profits invested in social projects, prefer working with local manpower and material, capped salary strech, public income of Director, commitment to respect for human beings at all levels, etc…).