NEV 2015: Energy in the Netherlands at a tipping point

Energy supplies in the Netherlands have reached a tipping point. The share of renewable energies will be increasing more rapidly up to 2023, due in part to joint efforts by the parties involved in the Energy Agreement for Sustainable Growth. Energy savings will also increase up to 2020. Energy consumption will continue its decline, but at a slower pace. After 2020, the decline in emissions of greenhouse gases and air pollutants is expected to slow down as well. In order to achieve a cleaner and more reliable energy system in the longer term, new policy incentives are needed, to be guided by a long-term perspective on climate and energy policies which is yet to be defined.

These are the main conclusions in the second edition of the Dutch government report Nationale Energieverkenning (NEV) 2015, an exploratory study on the national energy policy jointly conducted by the Energy Research Centre (ECN), the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL) and Statistics Netherlands, with contributions from the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO). The NEV report is a yearly assessment of energy management in the Netherlands.

Effects of Energy Agreement presented more clearly

The effects of measures from the Energy Agreement of 2013 are better understood now. The latest NEV report is showing a more precise estimate of the effects than last year. The aim to save an extra 100 petajoules of energy by 2020 will still remain out of reach. The European energy saving target for the Netherlands, on the other hand, amounting to 482 petajoules between 2014 and 2020 will be achieved. The share of renewable energy in the energy mix is growing. In 2014, this share was 5.6 percent. By 2020, this will have increased to 12.4 percent, more or less equivalent to the estimates in the previous edition of NEV. However, according to the European calculation method currently in use it is only 11.9 percent by 2020. In both cases, the European target for the Netherlands, namely 14 percent renewable energy by 2020, will not be met. The target in the Energy Agreement for Sustainable Growth – 16 percent by 2023 – looks feasible, however.

More employment opportunities in energy

Investments in renewable energy and energy saving are rising, in turn boosting employment. Employment related to energy management is expected to increase from 153,000 full time jobs in 2013 to 170,000 full time jobs in 2020. This means employment in sustainable energy activities will outrank job opportunities in conventional energy. As a result of the Energy Agreement for Sustainable Growth, net employment in renewable energy and energy saving activities in the period 2014 to 2020 will go up by approximately 80,000 FTEs, while the target is 90,000 FTEs.

Energy consumption declines, production more sustainable

Energy consumption in the Netherlands has been decreasing since 2004. This is a trend which will be sustained in the future, although to a lesser degree: the decrease will mostly occur in buildings, rather than in traffic, manufacturing and horticulture. The share of renewable energy in electricity production is to rise sharply: from 10 percent of energy consumption in 2014 to one third in 2020. The rise of renewable energy production for heating is not as sharp, but there will be more focus on sustainability in this area of the energy supply. Natural gas consumption for heating (in the built environment, the manufacturing industry and the horticultural sector) will decline from 80 percent in 2013 to around 70 percent by 2030.

Decrease in emission of greenhouse gases and air pollutants slowing beyond 2020

Total emission of greenhouse gases in the Netherlands decreased by 11 percent in 2013 relative to 1990, and will continue decreasing to 18 to 19 percent below the 1990 level by 2020. Between 2020 and 2030, emissions will decrease less rapidly, ending at around 21 percent below the 1990 level. This deceleration is partly due to an estimated increase in fossil electricity production in the Netherlands after 2022, which is related to declining imports and growing exports. By 2020, the Netherlands will comfortably exceed its European target for the reduction in greenhouse gases from activities which are not covered by the EU emissions trading scheme. 
Emission targets for air pollutants are also very likely to be met before 2020. Although emission of nitrogen oxides will still decline beyond 2020, emission of other pollutants will not decline much.

Anticipating higher energy bills

Although energy bills this year are going down, Dutch households can expect higher bills in the next few years, mainly due to the rising gas and electricity prices. The NEV report sets the average electricity bill at about 1,800 euros by 2020, which is 150 euros higher than the current average but nearly equal to the amount in 2010.

Dutch government has lower R&D investments than other governments

In the realm of innovation, the Netherlands is achieving a better balance between efforts in research, development and demonstration, but not in all technologies. Innovative forms of bioenergy, and the capturing and transporting of carbon dioxide can greatly enhance climate objectives, but they lack powerful support measures from within the government and private parties. The effective use of public funding for R&D has been wavering somewhat over the past few years and is considered rather far below the international average. Private investments in energy related start-ups have dropped sharply since 2010, not just in the Netherlands, but in the rest of Europe as well.

Long term objectives for energy and climate are needed

The Netherlands is expected to become a net importer of natural gas by 2030. Growing dependence on fossil fuels from elsewhere is underscoring the importance of an energy policy which focuses on the years beyond 2023. In neighbouring countries, long term goals already help structure the national policy on energy transition, determine priorities and  enhance mutual cooperation with neighbouring countries.

For more information:
ECN:  Polleke Peeters, Senior Communication Advisor, +31 6 30 00 93 40
PBL:  Mirjam Hartman, Communication advisor, +31 6 52 09 83 11
CBS:  Press services, 070 337 4444,