The climate is changing and we are all going to notice the consequences, all over the world. There are plenty of plans to prepare for this or even to reverse the process. But as an alderman for a medium-sized city in the Netherlands, what can you contribute to that? What is the impact of a climate measure on a local level? Rik Thijs, alderman for climate & energy in Eindhoven, shares his dilemmas, his choices and his ambitions, once every month.

My boiler makes strange noises, I noticed during the Christmas break. I used those weeks to carry out necessary maintenance on my house. In September, I moved there with my friend and he thought it was time to paint the blueish walls a little less blueish and put together some do-it-yourself cabinets we bought at our big Swedish friend. It seemed quite manageable. Until we noticed a leak at the dormers and our boiler made so much noise that it seemed like it could take off at any moment. With an older house you get flaws – so now and then it’s time to invest in your house so that you can live comfortably again.

I can repair the dormer window and maybe insulate it right away, but what would be a good choice for my boiler? Even as an alderman for climate and energy, I cannot answer this question directly. Should I replace it? And if so, for what? Shall I buy a new boiler, am I going to lease or do I opt for an investment in a heat pump? If I have these questions, then I’m pretty sure many people in Eindhoven have the same.

We entered the ’20s, the ‘transition twenties‘. This will be the decade in which the energy transition must come to fruition. Hopefully, we will move away from natural gas on a massive scale. As a municipality, we are working on an approach to see how we can get rid of natural gas in each neighbourhood, one after another. As an alderman, I am working on this every day, but as a resident, it does not yet give me the desired scope for action.

So during the Christmas holidays, I became even more aware of the role of the municipality. We are focusing on the question of how we can better help our residents and businesses to make the right choices when it comes to the energy transition. A first step is the “Warmtevisie” [Vision on Heat], which the city council will be examining in the coming weeks. This is the prelude to a natural gas-free city. We are looking at what alternative sources of heat we have as a city and in which neighbourhoods we could apply them. Next year, we will make it even more concrete. Of course, not all neighbourhoods can be served at once. As a resident, it’s also nice to know that your neighbourhood won’t be turned off natural gas in the next decade. As a homeowner, for example, you can then put more effort into insulation and solar panels.

Woensel-West, the neighbourhood where I live, is considered a part of town that can be turned into a natural gas-free zone. This is followed by a technical study into the feasibility of a heat network. So in the coming years not much will change in my neighbourhood. Hopefully my boiler will last for a while, otherwise, I might have to lease one for the next few years until it is clear what exactly is going to happen around my house. But either way, I’m going to need some maintenance on my boiler very soon.

Eindhoven residents who want to know whether their neighbourhood will also become free of natural gas in the near future and whether there are alternative sources of heat can take a look at www.eindhovenduurzaam.nl/aardgasvrij.