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Dutch Energy Agreement - No Vision, All Plan

by Bjinse 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.

I'll re-polish the text later and will see if I can muster some mental aspirin to delve through the specifics of the accord.
by Bjinse on Wed Aug 28th, 2013 at 08:23:30 AM EST
It looks like the typical stupid kind of plan politicians come up with: sector A should reduce emissions by X%, while sector B should reduce emissions by Y%, and sector C should increase production by Z%.

Detailed, complex, suboptimal and easily manipulated by powerful special interests. In short, a big mess.

It doesn't matter where emission cuts happen, because a molecule of CO2 from a tailpipe is identical to the molecule from the coal plant's smokestack. It doesn't make any sense to treat them differently. It's not rational. The important thing is the absolute volume of emission reductions. They should happen where it is the most cost-efficient to have them. By doing it that way, the cuts will happen at the least possible cost, or to put it another way, the cuts will be as large as possible given the assigned budget.

How do you achieve this? By simply taxing emissions, or if you suffer from a clinical hate against taxes, using emissions trading.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Wed Aug 28th, 2013 at 06:45:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A reduction in total energy consumption by an average of 1.5 percent per year;
That's much better than promising 10% by 2020.

Finance is the brain [tumour] of the economy
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Aug 28th, 2013 at 09:18:48 AM EST
But, without the details of what can be done each year, I don't believe it.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Aug 28th, 2013 at 09:40:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The market will provide.

Finance is the brain [tumour] of the economy
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Aug 28th, 2013 at 09:43:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe they are counting on austerity getting the energy use down too?

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Wed Aug 28th, 2013 at 03:13:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"Vastberaden, maar soepel en met mate"
by mustakissa on Wed Aug 28th, 2013 at 10:26:10 AM EST
Got as far as chapter 4. I should have stuck with the summary - there is little to no extra development than the presently standing policies on solar and geothermal as far as I can see. Just more promises to work on a new plan for development etc.

Particularly the plans on onshore wind are even more feeble than I previously thought - and have me concerned that authorities will push wind projects through. While the accord has pretty words on communal involvement - it has no hard guarantees. I should return a last time to check for the ideas on subsidies and taxation.

I'm not the only one (also Dutch) who has a lacklustre response to this accord.

by Bjinse on Fri Aug 30th, 2013 at 06:47:15 AM EST
concerned that authorities will push wind projects through

Why the authorities? AFAIK the government doesn't build wind farms in its own, while the certificates support system (in which the level of build-up is dictated by government targets) was ended in 2003, and currently there is a feed-in premium system (where the minimum level of buildup depends on investor willingness alone). Who are the typical on-shore wind investors in the Netherlands? Or is this a concern about zoning laws?

On this, in the diary, you wrote:

There is an increasing groundswell carried by provinces, counties and citizens against building more wind on land.

Could you detail that? With this description, it could be anything from a loud 10% to a 90% silent majority, and anything from something that is more smoke than fire through a successful campaign by a coalition of astroturfers and ideological opponents like in Britain or an accumulation of typical local issues to (and this would be the interesting part) severe problems special to the shape of the sector in the Netherlands.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Aug 30th, 2013 at 11:06:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A detailed answer to your questions would require another diary - but the summary is that it deals with complex legalistic issues, some of which still in the pipeline and which I have tracked previously on other issues. There's a large new law in development in The Hague that specifically deals with the use of public space and building developments, and zoning laws form part and parcel of this.

To wind back a bit, the final Balkenende government already introduced new regulation to overrule legal challenges on the local and municipality level when it concerns building developments, with the result that developers can ride more easily across local concerns.

These regulations are now integrated, and extended, in the new law still under wraps.

Let me put it this way: I'm seriously concerned how the upcoming legal framework will deal with the checks and balances to address new developments in the public space - and note, that's not just wind mills. This goes for the authorities at all levels - municipalities, provinces, water boards and national.

Yet specifically for wind projects, even currently the state and provinces already are able to overrule local challenges when it concerns wind park projects that have a capacity larger than 5 MW. For wind parks larger than 100 MW even provinces are left legally toothless. Last year, the government more or less appointed 11 locations for large wind parks, which have now resulted in officially lodged protests from citizens, companies and a multitude of local authorities. In case someone enjoys that sort of thing, they can be located at this site.

In an aside, the Central Planning Bureau, which forms the government's principal guiding bureau, has recently cautioned to halt building wind on land for at least the next 5 years due to present overcapacity.

While most agencies stress that local inclusion and participation form the best pathway to reduce local resistance and engender understanding to wind - the standing framework applies a top-down approach fitted to antagonize and ignore the local level, both citizens and local authorities. This does not mean that municipalities are without suspicion - altering zoning laws for development is a primary milking cow for municipalities and plenty of them are in debt due to the economic slump.

The phrasing plied in the energy accord does nothing to assuage the concerns and suspicions I have with respect to the current regulations or the newly developed law on public space.

That's all I can currently write for the moment, will be offline for some time.

by Bjinse on Sat Aug 31st, 2013 at 06:42:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I can readily imagine that local conflicts about windpower are significant in the country with the hoighest population density in europe.

On the other hand there is a lot of onshore windpower in the neighbouring german state of Lower Saxony, especially in the north west.

I don't see any reason why the same results can't be gained in the eastern Netherlands. What is good for the Emden region can't be wrong for the Groningen region.

by IM on Fri Aug 30th, 2013 at 02:11:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The issue for wind in the NL, as I see it, is that the support regime (in the form of a contract for differences, ie a public body pays the difference between the market price and an agreed fixed level, with various limits) is paid for our of the budget, ie the gross cost of it appears as a direct subsidy, paid for by taxpayers, and thus highly visible.

The merit order effect is not very visible when the market is driven by what happens in France and Germany anyway, but the cost is - and thus it becomes a political football.

Wind power

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Aug 31st, 2013 at 12:52:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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