Thu Aug 29th, 2013 at 08:57:32 AM EST
After years of halting and flip-flopping policies, the Dutch government is on the brink of presenting a long-term commitment on the development of renewable energy sources and the reduction of carbon-based energy. As a result of the decades of wavering energy policy, the Netherlands currently hold, unsurprisingly, the semi-last position in the list of EU nations, measured by the percentage of durable energy production: a little over 4 percent (4.4% in 2012) of Dutch energy production is listed as renewable, and even that figure is a result of the increase of biofuels.
The new accord sets out to change the ranking, aiming to reach 14 percent of renewable energy production in 2020. In other words, an increase of 1 percent every year until 2020 - thereby fulfilling, barely, the Dutch commitment to the EU-required minimum of producing 14 percent renewable energy in 2020.
Officially, the plans are still under the hood - but a final draft of the agreement of the sparring partners was leaked to the press yesterday, and can be found here (in Dutch, of course). The accord is an archetypical Dutch result, the product of months of negotiations between over 40 parties and stakeholders. As a result, this is not a visionary document about the future of energy for the Netherlands, but a policy agreement with each line seemingly fought over tooth-and-nail. One wonders what the result would've been without the 14 percent European commitment hanging across the country like a sword of doom.
Below the fold, an overview of the stated main goals - and a first commentary.
|Energie-akkoord Doelen|| Energy Accord Goals |
| Een besparing van het finale energieverbruik met gemiddeld 1,5 procent per jaar;|
100 PJ aan besparing in het finale energieverbruik van Nederland per 2020;
Een toename van het aandeel van hernieuwbare energieopwekking (nu 4 procent) naar 14 procent in 2020;
Een verdere stijging van dit aandeel naar 16 procent in 2023;
Ten minste 15.000 voltijdsbanen, voor een belangrijk deel in de eerstkomende jaren te creëren.
A reduction in total energy consumption by an average of 1.5 percent per year;
100 PJ of savings in total energy consumption in the Netherlands by 2020;
An increase in the share of renewable energy (now 4 percent) to 14 percent in 2020;
A further increase this share to 16 percent in 2023;
At least 15,000 full-time jobs, largely to create within the next few years.
As to achieve this, according to the summary, there will be:
- A strong focus on energy conservation. A fund of 600 million Euros is introduced for home-owners and 400 million Euros is allocated for housing cooperatives, both to spent on energy conservation.
- A 350% increase of offshore wind production: from current 1000 MW to nearly 4500 MW.
- An increase of onshore wind to 6000 MW - a doubling of what's available today.
- A upper limit to the use of biomass in power plants.
- A tax stimulus - a reduction of 7.5 cent/ kWh for local (read: solar) development - although the practical approach appears yet unclear and it seems only cooperatives are allowed to profit.
- A call to develop smart grids as a requirement, but there are no agreements on development.
- A lobby in Brussels for the revival of the ETS from 2020.
- The closure of five coal-powered energy plants.
- A 17 % reduction of carbon in the transport sector, although final plans remain to be developed.
My first impression: the significant aspects of the accord are the considerable increase of offshore wind, the intended closure of coal-powered plants and the plans to stimulate energy conservation. And notable by its absence: no equivalent of a Dutch Energiewende.
To my mind, the focus on conservation results in a clever bookkeeping trick, what seems to be Migeru's Corollary of Conservation (I've coined it after him, although I currently can't find the specific post where he pointed this out for the first time): by reducing the total of carbon intensive energy, one subsequently boosts the total percentage of renewable energy production.
The doubling of onshore wind power was already announced over a year ago, so should not be considered as a particular breakthrough, but the expansion of offshore wind is. To my mind, the offshore plans have an even better chance to be completed in time. There is an increasing groundswell carried by provinces, counties and citizens against building more wind on land. I suspect that particularly plans for large wind farms onshore will be confronted with drawn-out court battles and fierce local resistance.
Another note, on the closure of five older coal-plants - it is worth mentioning that this only continues a trend that already has set in, as power companies have already begun shutting down older coal plants on own accord.
Left unmentioned is the fact that six new coal-powered energy plants, with a total capacity of 5000 MW, are already being constructed in the Netherlands. These operate more efficiently in comparison and most of them are capable to burn biomass, so there will be another CO2 gain on paper. But really interesting is that, in case all scheduled plants close down, in return taxes on coal will be lifted from 2016. To compensate the state for this loss of income, the national energy tax will be increased instead.
Finally, the goal to achieve 15.000 jobs for the 2014 - 2020 period seems to be founded in the magical thought that the accord in itself will suffice to provide them. There are more aspects that I find relatively headachy, particularly a renewed push of the ETS and the dearth of text on developing smart grids, solar and geothermal in the summary. Although I assume that these topics will be addressed more extensively in the bulk of the accord, so far the text suggests - together with this week's announcement that the Dutch government is generally supportive of shale gas extraction - that fulfilling the EU minimum represents the lowest possible bar of present consensus in the Dutch energy landscape.