On 24 June 2015, the Hague District Court ordered the Dutch government to take more action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. According to the ruling, the government must ensure that the Dutch emissions in 2020 will be at least 25 per cent lower than those in 1990.
The court ruling triggered the vote in the Dutch parliament on November 26 in favour of phasing out all coal power plants. The majority vote asks the government to draw up a phase-out plan in co-operation with the industry.
The plan must take into account the need for a growing share of renewables, legal and financial aspects, a potential increase of CO2-emissions in other European countries, security of supply and innovation.
The government has to inform parliament about its progress in October 2016 according to the vote.
In 2014 coal accounted for a quarter of the total generation capacity in the Netherlands and for more than 40% of total power production.
Stijn van den Heuvel, Head of Public & Regulatory Affairs and Media Relations at Nuon, explains that decisions to phase-out 3,500 MW of Dutch coal capacity by mid-2017 already are in place. “Another 4,700 MW of coal fired power generation capacity will be retained in the Netherlands. Now parliament has requested the government to come up with a plan to also phase out the remaining coal capacity in order to bring down the Dutch CO2-emissions.”
Nuon owns one of the five coal-fired power plants that remain in operation after the closure of the 1980’s coal plants, the 630 MW Hemweg 8 power plant.
“Its lifetime is related to the possibility of co-firing biomass. We consider co-firing a good transition technology when switching to a sustainable energy system based on renewables with gas as a back-up.”
Van den Heuvel states that Nuon owns about 2,200 MW natural gas capacity in the Netherlands. “Natural gas has a better environmental performance than coal, but coal has been the preferred choice as a result of market prices. If, or when, coal power plants are phased out, gas power plants are likely to run to a higher extent next to an additional import of electricity.”
The British government recently decided to close all coal-fired power plants by 2025.
“The British situation is somewhat different. Their coal power plants are old; the Netherlands has three new ones. It is now up to the Dutch politicians to decide on what compensation power plant owners will get when they would agree to phase-out their plants,” van den Heuvel explains and says: “Even so, it is fair to say that by 2030 there will be no future for coal in the Netherlands.”