Staff from Durham County Council’s Funding, Low Carbon and Building Design teams, plus the UK Coal Authority’s Head of Innovation and a Hydrogeologist visited Heerlen in the Netherlands on 21st and 22nd November 2018 to learn about their Mijnwater project. 

They met Elianne Demollin, founding mother of the Mijnwater project;  

They also heard from the Municipality and learned about the project from the strategic and technical perspectives, including information about the thermal smart grid, Mijnwater 5GDHC and Energy Transition.

They also visited: a hot production well, a cluster installation and examples of both small and large energy stations;

The visit was arranged as a Staff Exchange of the REBUS project, in which Durham County Council is a partner. With County Durham being a significant former coal mining area, local REBUS Stakeholders acknowledged the minewater potential and suggested that a REBUS Staff Exchange to Heerlen to learn about their best practice would be very timely for helping inform thinking in Durham.  

Key learning from the visit includes:…………… 

  • Heerlen’s highly innovative low temperature district heating and cooling network provides a long term low carbon solution for the region. The project demonstrates the benefits of the public sector investment being the initial driver to help unlock innovation.  
  • The municipality was able to take a long term view that complemented the regeneration and economic development ambitions of the region. 
  • When determining the payback period, the Mijnwater project was not costed against fossil fuels. Instead, only renewable energy sources were used as comparators - they had taken the view that the region would not use fossil fuels in the future. They also acknowledged that money spent on fossil fuels would leave the region, whereas trying to anchor knowledge in the region and enhance the local renewable energy economy would have significant local economic benefits and help provide energy security.   
  • Delegates were impressed to see how Heerlen had been able to devise a scalable low-carbon solution and make the best of the resources they had in the area.  

Durham will now consider how learning from Heerlen’s Mijnwater project could be used locally to help unlock renewable heat as a potential Low Carbon energy source for public infrastructure, and more widely, in County Durham.