Netherlands to ban natural gas by 2050

Gas meters
CC BY 2.0 Lloyd Alter, after Shawn Micalleff/ gas meters on Geary

It's part of a much bigger energy transition, and sounds a lot like wishful thinking.

Eighty-nine percent of Dutch homes are heated by natural gas fired boilers; according to Eline van den Ende, residential heating accounts for ten percent of Dutch CO2 emissions. She writes in Energypost.EU:

At the end of 2016, the Dutch government presented its “Energy Agenda” which indicates the policies that should lead to an almost carbon-neutral economy in 2050. With regard to emissions from buildings, the two main policies are better insulation to reduce heat demand and the replacement of natural gas by alternative fuels with lower emissions. Currently every house or residence is still legally entitled to a connection to the gas grid. This law will be annulled and replaced by a “right to a heating connection”. New houses will not be connected to the gas grid anymore in any case. The 7 million existing houses will be gradually disconnected from the gas grid.

Key to this isn't just about switching fuels, but with fully forty percent of the reduction in gas consumption coming from reducing demand.

Vision for fuel© KVGN

10% of demand will still be met with condensed boilers, 15% with electric heat pumps, 15% with hybrid heat pumps, and 20% with district heating networks. The latter will be run partly on waste heat (70%) and partly on geothermal sources (30%).

All of this would take a lot more electricity, and right now "only 12% of the electricity produced is green. Over 80% of electricity comes from fossil sources (coal and gas) and the rest from nuclear power and other sources."

Energy Agenda CoverNetherlands Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate/Public Domain

The article goes on at length, explaining the different heating technologies, without once mentioning how they plan to reduce demand by 40 percent, which seems to be a rather significant oversight. But in fact, when you read the Government's Energy Agenda, available in English here, they don't actually get a grip on this either. It is full of high-tech suggestions for mostly new construction, but acknowledge that this is not nearly enough. Terrific visionary drawings though.

heating ideasNetherlands Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate/Public Domain

For newly constructed homes, the European Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) sets the ambition of having near energy-neutral buildings. From 2021 all new buildings must meet corresponding legal requirements. However, the construction of new dwellings will only make a limited contribution to the required improvement of the sustainability of the built environment. The biggest task is to provide low-carbon heating for existing dwellings and buildings.

All they actually come up with for existing buildings is:

  • Continue and broaden the promotion of energy conservation through price incentives, grants, low-interest loans, information and support of innovative approaches.
  • Where necessary impose energy conservation, or minimum mandatory levels, for offices and in the rented housing sector as already exists in utilities construction.
  • Promote innovative technologies for further cost reduction and removing bottlenecks.

Unfortunately, that doesn't seem enough to get them anywhere near 40 percent.

Transportation ideasNetherlands Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate/Public Domain

The transportation vision is also bizarre, without a single bicycle in sight. They do get a mention in the copy:

The bicycle is an important link in short-distance personal mobility, in urban areas and for the first and final stages of a journey. With the advent of the electric bicycle and the speed pedelec, for many people the bicycle is also becoming an attractive alternative for medium-distance journeys. To promote use the Dutch government has opted for the spatial incorporation of good and safe (long-distance) bicycle links and an extra boost to cycle parks in cities. It is already possible for employers who wish to do so to use the tax-free margin in the work-related expenses scheme to provide a bicycle tax-free to employees.

It is all a very impressive agenda, much larger than the original point about getting rid of gas. But while it spends a lot of time discussing the goal of Electrifying everything, it also recognizes that the most important task is to Reduce Demand. Perhaps it is all lost in translation, but I don't understand how they plan to do that.

Power and lightNetherlands Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate/Public Domain

Netherlands to ban natural gas by 2050
It's part of a much bigger energy transition, and sounds a lot like wishful thinking.

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