This section of the BioVill website provides a collection of the most frequently asked questions (FAQ) concering the bioenergy village concept and project development posed by interested citizens and stakeholders at the local information points in the BioVill target villages in Croatia, Macedonia, Romania, Serbia and Slovenia. This collection does not claim to be exhaustive. If you have any further questions, you are cordially invited to contact the respective representatives at the local information points. For contacts please have a look at the »Bioenergy Section« of this Website.

1.     What is a bioenergy village?

A bioenergy village is a village, municipality, settlement, community or a part of it which produces and uses most of its energy demand from local biomass sources, e.g. agriculture, forestry and waste as well as from other renewable energies. To ensure a sufficient heat and power supply bioenergy villages usually use several technologies of different sizes, such as: woodchip boilers, pellet stoves, logwood boilers, biogas plants, combined heat and power plants using woodchips or biogas etc. To distribute the heat to the consumers most of the households of the village are connected to a small district heating grid.

For more information please watch the BioVill project animation video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v2YI6G63oXk

2.     What are the objectives of the potential bioenergy villages of the BioVill project?

The specific objectives of each village were jointly prepared by the key actors of the villages (mainly the local bioenergy working groups) and specified in the Strategic Goals of the Bioenergy Village. These documents are available at the local information points in the villages or at http://www.biovill.eu/bioenergy-villages/.

General objectives of a bioenergy village include the following aspects:

·         The biomass feedstock is produced locally and in a sustainable way;

·         The power supply from local renewable energies is at least as high as the energy demand of the village;

·         The heat demand is provided by locally produced biomass or other renewable energies;

·         The business model allows also consumers, farmers and forest owners to become shared owners of the installations;

·         The creation of the bioenergy village is based on a high level of public participation.

3.     What are best practice examples for bioenergy villages?

There are many well-known good practice examples for bioenergy villages, especially in Germany and Austria, were the idea and concept of a bioenergy village was developed. Here are some examples:

Austria:

·         Bruck an der Leitha: www.energiepark.at (language DE)

·         Güssing: www.eee-info.net (language DE)

·         Joglland: www.klimaundenergiemodellregionen.at (language DE)

·         Kötschach-Mauthen: www.energie-autark.at/show_content2.php?s2id=276 (language EN)

·         Mureck: http://www.seeg.at/ (language DE)

Germany:

·         Grosselfingen: https://www.grosselfingen.de/,Lde/Bio+Energie.html (language DE)

·         Oberharmersbach: http://www.buerger-energie-oberharmersbach.de/index.html (language DE)

·         Schlöben/Thuringia: https://bioenergiedorf.schloeben.de/bioenergiedorf/ (language DE)

·         Tangeln/Saxony-Anhalt: www.facebook.com/lu.tangeln

·         Untermaßholderbach: http://www.untermassholderbach.de (language DE)

For further information please have a look at the best practice examples brochure prepared by the BioVill project (Deliverable D2.1): http://www.biovill.eu/results/biovill-publications-en/.

4.     How can such a bioenergy project start?

Every village/municipality/comunity must find its own way of developing a bioenergy project and becoming a village. But they can follow some general recommendations on basic principles for the development of a bioenergy village:

·         Identify local leaders: local leaders should be identified to establish a core working group of citizens that begin with the initial steps and motivate other citizens to join.

·         Create trust and acceptance for the project idea in the village and involve from the beginning as many citizens as possible.

·         Analyse the situation precisely, make realistic assumptions and calculations and provide concrete facts and options to the citizens and stakeholders.

·         Try to combine activities with other infrastructure developments in the village and make use of all existing support programmes and external expertise

Anyone with an idea can start a bioenergy village project. Usually the citizens living in the village are the main drivers for pushing the energy transition in the villages. Very often, local leaders or a small group of persons are taking the initial actions to start the process. This means, preferably, the development of a bioenergy village should be a bottom-up process pushed and implemented by the citizens.

5.     Which are risks and challenges for the successful establishment of a bioenergy village?

One of the most critical factors in the development of a bioenergy village is to find a viable business model and to involve/coordinate all relevant actors in the value chain (e.g. wood producer & processors, heat production and distribution, consumers, municipality etc.).

Other major risks and challenges for the successful establishment of a bioenergy village are:

·         Lack of interest of potential bioenergy consumers (citizens, companies, public institutions, etc.)

·         Absence of local leaders, e.g. to initiate and push the project development

·         Lack of experience of key stakeholders (administration, financing sector, citizens, experts) in bioenergy projects, e.g. banks are reluctant to grant loans to bioenergy investments.

·         Administrative burden/obstacles, e.g. lack of support of the municipality/local administration in acquiring the necessary permits

·         Lack of relevant funding/supporting instruments (bank loans, credit lines with preferential interest and grace periods, national and EU programmes)

6.     Who decides which buildings will be included in the district heating network?

In the 7 villages of the BioVill project the decision was taken by the local leaders and/or the bioenergy working group based on previously collected data and analyzes. Respective studies are available and can be checked at the local info point. The collection of detailed and precise data about the available local and regional potentials as well as the given framework conditions and the elaboration of first technical and economical assessments are important steps for the successful initiation of a bioenergy village. Without verifiable facts and clear arguments showing possible solutions and presenting the benefits to the citizens, especially opponents cannot be convinced and might impede the whole process. Usually, district heating networks allow the connection of new interested heat consumers, but only if their connection is economical and technical viable for the whole system.

7.     What kind of permissions and legal procedures are necessary for the establishment of a bioenergy village?

The establishment of a bioenergy village is a very complex process. It comprises several phases, e.g. planning, construction, operation, maintenance and enhancement, for which legal procedures have to be followed and various permissions have to be applied, e.g. planning documentation, construction permits, specific technical and environmental requirements. All these regulations depend on the existing legal framework in the relevant country.

In order to use investment funds of the EU and other international support programmes, it is necessary to prepare the complete project documentation and obtain all necessary permits, including:

·         Application to the tender providing grants for the design of the project documentation;

·         Design of the project documentation;

·         Obtaining the necessary permits (location permit, construction permit, cadastre entry for the land parcels which are used for the pipelines of the district heating system

8.     Which is the most common business model of a bioenergy village?

For the success of a bioenergy village it is important to recognize all different initiatives in the village, which contribute to the overall goal of energy self-sufficiency. Already existing bioenergy villages are using a great variety of different business models and forms of organisations, e.g. energy cooperations, public-private partnerships and public enterprises. Besides that, private investments and initiatives, e.g. limited liability companies and civil law partnerships complement the exisitng possibilities. Ideally, biomass suppliers and energy consumers are shared owners of the bioenergy installations. Participatory approaches, e.g. citizens/consumer cooperatives, are highly accepted due to the direct participation of the citizens, equal voting rights among the members and the high transparency of decisions. Its objective is not to maximize revenues, but to ensure that all citizens of the village benefit from the investments and from the increased wellbeing and community development in the village and the region.

More detailed information on possible business models can be found in the publication »Guideline on financing options, contracts, ownership models and business models for bioenergy villages« on the BioVill website.

For further information please check the »Guideline on financing options, contracts, ownership models and business models for bioenergy villages« on the BioVill website (Deliverable D 5.1): http://www.biovill.eu/results/biovill-publications-en/.

9.     What is a local bioenergy working group? Who are the members? Can I still join the group?

The initiators of the bioenergy projects and/or the main stakeholders in the village can set-up a local bioenergy working group in order to steer the initiation and implementation process for the bioenergy village, to discuss various aspects and prepare decisions, to elaborate technical concepts and calculations as well as to promote the project in the village and at local, regional and national authorities. Everybody who is interested to support the bioenergy projects can join and support the local bioenergy working groups. Please contact the local responsible person at the info point or BioVill’s national cooperation partner. For further information on the info point and the national partners check the BioVill website – section Bioenergy villages –  Local information point or section Partners – BioVill Consortium.

10.  Is it necessary to convert the collected wood biomass into pellets?

No, it is not necessary. Modern heating technology exist, which can burn various forms of wood fuel, e.g. woodchips, logwood and pellets. For each bioenergy project, the best possible form of wood fuel should be selected according to the existing local conditions.

11.  Is the biomass utilization not too expensive?

The economic advantages of using local biomass for heating and energy production depend very much on the local conditions and should be analysed very precisely before starting to invest in a fuel switch or in new bioenergy new technologies. Nevertheless, many best practice examples have proven that the use of local biomass for bioenergy production can be more economical than existing fossil-fuelled solutions, e.g. based on gas, heating oil, electricity or traditional wood utilization. Modern biomass heating systems often also provide a higher technical comfort compared to existing technologies.

12.  What kind of waste and residues can be used for bioenergy production?

Modern biomass boilers allow to use a great variety of wood biomass. In many cases also waste wood, such as branches, barks, sawdust and solid agricultural by-products, like straw, corn stalks, fruit tree branches and bushes, can be utilized for energy production. The national cooperation partners of the BioVill project can provide more information on available technologies for bioenergy production (see BioVill website).

13.  What benefits can the energy transition bring to a village and to its inhabitants? Why a village should participate at bioenergy projects?

The use of sustainable local biomass sources for energy production can provide various positive impacts on social, economic and environmental aspects in the villages. For instance, the production and use of local wood resources might create new jobs and/or more income for local forest owners, sawmills and wood processors, heat suppliers and other service providers and thus, can strengthen the local biomass-based economy. Further, it can reduce harmful emissions, especially during the heating season. In the case of a joint management of the heating system, it can increase trust and cooperation among the citizens of the village. More benefits of modern biomass based heating systems are: higher heating comfort, less work with producing the own firewood, stable and predictable costs as well as independence from imported natural gas and other fossil fuels etc.

The involvement of a village in such a bioenergy project brings even more advantages, e.g. the opportunity to gain international experiences in the field of bioenergy, to exchange and learn from international experts and best practice examples as well as to initiate and strengthen cooperation and partnerships.

14.  What are the advantages of a biomass based district-heating-system compared to individual heating systems?

District heating systems often provide a more economic and comfortable heat supply to the customers compared to individual heating systems, since investment, installation and management are jointly organized by an experienced investor/operator for a larger number of consumers. For example, the individual households do not need to invest in a heating boiler and a chimney. Existing heating rooms can be used for other purposes. Also, the joint operation and the maintenance of the system by an experienced operator provides benefits to all heat consumers, e.g. from lower operation and maintenance costs. Moreover, the professionally managed joint fuel purchase might result in lower fuel prices and thus, lower heating costs. Last but not least, integrating renewable energies (or waste heat from industry) is often easier and more cost-efficient in local district heating systems compared to individual heating systems.

15.  What are the main individual economic benefits of operating biomass fuel-based instead of fossil fuel-based heating boilers or ovens?

Due to still smaller production numbers, the investment costs for biomass boilers and ovens are often higher than for their fossil counterparts. However, biomass-based systems strongly benefit from lower fuel costs. The annual fuel cost savings normally exceed the higher investment costs in about 10 to 15 years, depending on the level of the oil and gas prices compared to the biomass prices. While fossil fuel-based heat production costs per kWh typically are dominated by the share of fuel costs (often higher than 66%), biomass-based heat production costs are dominated by capital costs (often > 50%). This means that an increase of the fossil fuel prices much stronger raises the heat production costs for fossil systems than similar price increases of biomass for biomass-based systems. Therefore, a biomass-based heating system is more resilient (less risky) to fuel price increases. Furthermore, in the last decades biomass fuels showed both, less price fluctuations and lower price increases. If the public hand helps to partly compensate the higher investment, biomass-based heating systems become really competitive from investors view, as large biomass market shares in advanced biomass-based economies show. In Austria, for example 25% of all space heat, 35% of all steam production and 45% of all district heat is covered by biomass fuels. Scandinavian countries have even higher biomass shares. This provides evidence that biomass has its economic advantages for individuals, besides the associated social, environmental and climate protection benefits.

16.  How citizens can benefit from a bioenergy project like BioVill, if their house is not located in/near the village center and they cannot connect to the local district heating network?

Since the main objective of a bioenergy village is to produce and use most of its energy demand from local biomass sources, also households which cannot be connected to a local heating system are supported to use bioenergy sources and to modernize their individual heating systems. Thus, also the BioVill project offers information and advice for individual solutions for (in-house) heating systems, i.e. modern biomass fueled boilers and ovens. Before you decide on your preferred biomass heating technology, you should consult the information materials prepared by the project on modern logwood, pellets and woodchip based heating technologies (available on the BioVill website -> section Results – BioVill Publications – Dissemination Materials). Besides this, the local BioVill partner can assist you in preparing a heat cost calculation, comparing the heating costs for different biomass fuels technologies. In this way, you will be able to choose the most suitable option for you. Furthermore, also information on financing possibilities and available support programmes for small-scale modern biomass boilers can be provided by the national BioVill partner and at the local information point.

17.  What are the typical energy transition measures implemented in bioenergy villages?

Typical energy transition measures in bioenergy villages are the installation of central heat generation systems based on biomass (pellets, wood chips) or other renewable energies, of district heating systems, of decentral biomass heating systems as well as of solar-thermal and photovoltaic plants. Sometimes, also wind or water turbines and geothermal plants are realized. If the framework conditions allows, the projects focus on a holistic approach, including heat and power generation systems as well as energy efficiency measures, e.g. in public and private buildings, in order to reduce the total energy demand.

18.  How these measures can be financed?

There are different options to finance local energy transition depending on the existing legal framework and local conditions. First of all, the municipality can finance energy transition measures and become the owner of the installed heating systems. Also, local citizen can establish an initiative or a company (e.g. energy cooperative) and finance the planned measures. In both cases, usually loans from financing institutions and subsidies from national or European programmes are used to finance the energy transition projects. Furthermore, a public utility company can take over the responsibility for investing and managing the new bioenergy system. And finally, a third party, like an Energy Service Company (ESCO) can be involved and finances the projects completely.

19.  How the heat supplier does the billing of the energy costs?

Usually, the heat consumer pays a connection fee when the contract starts. Sometimes, periodic instalments are agreed for the contract duration as a basic fee, which include all fix costs (capital and maintenance costs). The delivered heat is accounted for an agreed price per kWh multiplied with the measured annual heat consumption. Many heat delivery contracts also include price adaptation clauses that take into account price volatilities of relevant fuel, operation and maintenance costs.

20.  Where can I get more information if I am interested to set-up a district heating system?

The involvement and participation of a broad range of local stakeholders, decision makers and consumers is crucial for the success of a district heating system in a bioenergy village. Thus, if you are interested in setting-up a district heating systems, you should contact already in the very beginning the relevant stakeholders and decision makers in your municipality. For further information on existing local district heating systems, on available technologies and on lessons learnt from the process implementation in the BioVill partner villages please contact the respective representatives at the local information points.

21.  Where can I find more information on the pre-feasibility studies for the planned district heating systems in the BioVill partner villages?

For more information about the results of the pre-feasibility studies for the planned district heating systems in the BioVill partner villages please search for the document »BioVill D4.2 Report on the opportunities to set-up biomass based CHP plants and small district heating networks in the target villages« at the BioVill website – section Results – BioVill Publications – Deliverables.

22.  Are subsidies available for the utilization of bioenergy sources in my region?

The availability of subsidies and support schemes for the utilization of renewable energy source vary from country to country and sometimes even from region to region. For more information about the situation in the BioVill partner countries and regions please search for the document »BioVill D2.7 Reports on regional and local framework conditions in the target villages« at the BioVill website – section Results – BioVill Publications – Deliverables.

23.  Where can I learn more about the survey with citizens on their visions and ideas?

The results of the surveys with the citizens of the BioVill target villages are presented in the document »BioVill D3.6 Survey with citizens on their visions and ideas about the set-up of bioenergy villages in Croatia, Macedonia, Romania, Serbia and Slovenia« which you can find on the BioVill website at the respective country chapter in the section Results – BioVill Publications – Deliverables.