The Netherlands is lagging behind most EU countries on reaching its renewable energy target of 14%. As all the other EU countries the Netherlands has national renewable energy targets for the year 2020. The EU target 20% is spread over the different member states taking into account country specifics. The Dutch target stipulates that 14% of the energy production must come from renewable sources by 2020.
But last year it was only 5.5%. Stijn van den Heuvel, Head of Public & Regulatory Affairs and Media Relations at Nuon, says: “We have had an energy policy over the last 15 years that wasn’t really consistent which in turn made it difficult for investors in renewable energy. The geographic situation in the Netherlands with no mountains means that there are no options for hydro. We don’t have enough biomass either, since the Netherlands is just a small country. But we have had a lot of gas and have been spoiled by that fact and incentives have favoured natural gas over other energy sources.”
In late 2013 intense negotiations led to a broad energy agreement between more than 40 organisations including central and local government, employer’s associations, unions, environmental organisations and financial institutions.
The agreement set the policy framework for a more sustainable energy supply. According to Van den Heuvel the effects are now seen. “We see more stability in the system. Solar has a lot of potential, offshore wind as well and also onshore wind projects are progressing better than before. All provinces have their own target for 2020. But a big project naturally takes 5-10 years from first plans to completion so we can’t see the full effects of the energy agreement yet. Anyhow, the direction has been set”
Van den Heuvel mentions discussions about replacing natural gas with district heating and electrification of the transport sector. “Heating and transport today account for 75% of an average Dutch household’s CO2-emissions. So we’ll have to move efforts for decarbonisation to other sectors than just the power sector as well.”
Hard to reach
Despite the promising potential in growth of renewables in the Netherlands, Van den Heuvel believes it will be difficult to reach the 14% target by 2020. “Estimates from last year show that we will reach maybe 10-12%.The government and the oversight committee of the energy agreement will come up with additional measures. We’ll have to wait until October when the official evaluation will be presented.”
Despite the prediction that the national target will be insurmountable, Van den Heuvel is quite optimistic. “The policy direction is clear and Nuon’s direction is clear. We have several renewable projects in the pipeline. Two examples are the Wieringermeer repowering project where 93 old turbines will be replaced with 100 new and more efficient ones which will make the onshore wind farm one of the largest in the Netherlands. We also have Slufter, an onshore development together with Eneco where 8 out of 14 turbines will be owned by Nuon.”
Facts EU’s Renewable Energy Directive
It establishes an overall policy for the production and promotion of energy from renewable sources in the EU. It requires the EU to fulfil at least 20% of its total energy needs with renewables by 2020 – to be achieved through the attainment of individual national targets. All EU countries must also ensure that at least 10% of their transport fuels come from renewable sources by 2020.
At 5.5% renewable energy, the Netherlands was third from last. Only Malta and Luxembourg had less energy coming from renewable sources. Sweden is the leader with 53 percent of its energy coming from renewable sources.