Sustainable business parks in Utrecht. Routes towards zero-carbon business parks

This study examines how nine business parks in Utrecht municipality can best be decarbonised in terms of energy consumption. To this end electricity and gas use in each park was determined and sustainable energy options identified along with their cost. Current energy use was established from publicly available data and the municipal Licensing, Monitoring & Enforcement department’s database, to which access was given. On average, the gas/electricity split is around 50/50. Only three of the nine parks use any substantial amount of process gas.

For each park, a factsheet was made with core data and the most promising routes to a zero-carbon future. To help the businesses, the municipality and other stakeholders elaborate concrete plans a route map for each was also prepared.

Heat demand can be substantially reduced through insulation, potential savings being governed by building age. For LT heat the entire envelope needs to be insulated to Rc 3.5. As most buildings in these parks are post-1990, less insulation work will be needed to make them suitable for LT heat.

Electrification is usually the most logical option for decarbonising industrial processes. For most of the processes in use here electrical alternatives are already commercially available with the same functionality as their current gas-fired counterparts. The key aspects of a switch to electric are initial outlay, electricity versus gas price and possible need for a more robust grid connection.

The heating option chosen will be determined largely by cost. This project considered both social costs (all costs incurred by society, regardless of who invests or benefits) and end-user costs (based on company costs for taking heating systems and/or processes off the gas grid and the accruing benefits). Our findings were as follows:

  • Given the modest spread in the social costs of the various sustainable heat options, no one specific solution can be recommended.
  • The zero-carbon options with the lowest social costs in 2030 have a similar price tag to HE gas boilers in that year. In terms of overall cost to society there is therefore nothing preventing the switch, though the initial outlay is often higher.
  • HT/MT heat grids are generally the lowest-cost option for end users, but waste-heat availability is limited. While geothermal has considerable technical potential, it remains out of reach in the near term.
  • LT solutions are of most interest on post-1995 business parks, where less or no insulation is needed.