Birgit Coninx is Secretary-General at ASTER, and is responsible for operational coordination, including communications with the social tenants. ASTER is a cooperative society of social housing providers, and an initiative from the Flemish social housing sector. Its goal is investing in sustainable social living, to make sustainable investments in social housings possible, and to tackle energy poverty in Belgium. Specifically, ASTER wants to install as much solar as possible on the rooftops of solar housing units.
Over a period of 5 years, ASTER will provide solar power to 52,500 social housing units, installing around 395,000 solar panels !
These installations will have a total energy capacity of 158,000 kWp, and will generate 130,000 MW. This will lead to a reduction of 35,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions – which is the equivalent of planting 1.4 million trees.
Birgit describes how energy bills are huge part of a budget for a social tenant. ASTER supports them by delivering solar energy at a lower rate, resulting in lower energy bills for the tenants.These tenants are also not paying upfront costs for the solar installations; they are only paying for the solar power generated while the sun is shining. With solar, tenants are already seeing 27-34% of savings on their energy bills.
In the future, ASTER want to focus on energy sharing where people can share low cost solar energy with their neighbours, and directly benefit from reduction on their energy bills, while supporting the grid integration of solar. Currently, ASTER are researching how to make this a reality for social tenants.
“Energy sharing is the future. ASTER wants all social tenants, also those who are not able to have solar PV installed on their rooftops, to be able to enjoy a sustainable, Flemish energy supply.”
“The energy crisis has taught us that Europe is very dependent on energy imports. Because of that, energy prices skyrocketed, and fluctuated very strongly. Moreover, the extraction of fossil fuels, such as petroleum and natural gas, is not endless. Eventually, we will feel this impacting our wallets, and also our planet. Solar energy, or renewable energy in general, is no longer a story of the future, but a transition that should have happened yesterday, if not today. Fun fact: turning one fifth of France into a solar installation would be enough to supply the entire world with solar energy. So there is definitely enough sun for everyone!”
© Els Matthysen