Energy Transition Becoming Visible in Netherlands

The Dutch National Energy Report reveals that the objectives for renewable energy and energy savings have not yet been achieved, but the climate objective has, and employment in the energy sector is shifting from fossil fuels to renewable energy and savings. 

Thanks to energy savings and the increasing production of renewable energy, greenhouse gas emissions in the Netherlands will continue to fall in the coming years, helping to ensure the Netherlands achieves the 2020 European climate objectives.  The share of renewable energy is estimated to reach 12 percent by 2020 and 15 percent by 2023. The accompanying investments mean there is an increase in the number of energy-related jobs. Demand for natural gas is decreasing, but despite this the Netherlands will need to import much more natural gas from 2025 as its own gas reserves become depleted.

Energy savings and domestic solar power generation mean the average energy bill of consumers in 2020 will be 60 euros cheaper than in 2014, despite higher energy prices. The objectives for renewable energy and energy savings have not yet been achieved, but a shift in employment opportunities from the fossil fuel sector to renewable energy and energy savings can be seen.

This was revealed by the National Energy Report 2014 (NEV), which was drawn up at the request of the Ministry of Economic Affairs by the Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands (ECN), in cooperation with the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL), Statistics Netherlands (CBS) and the Netherlands Enterprise Agency ( The NEV was released this year for the first time and will be updated annually.

In the NEV, researchers sketch the current Dutch energy management situation and its expected development up to 2030, based on the current and proposed government policy and other measures and agreements, such as those of the National Energy Agreement (insofar as they have been worked out in detail). “Our conclusion is that energy management is experiencing considerable changes in the Netherlands. The transition is gradually becoming more visible,” say project coordinators Michiel Hekkenberg of ECN and Martijn Verdonk of PBL. “There are still significant uncertainties, however. Some objectives will probably be achieved, while others may not. The position of the Netherlands as a natural gas country is weakening and fossil fuels continue to be replaced by renewable energy sources. This transition is also reflected in the employment figures.”

Energy consumption in the Netherlands was 5 percent lower last year than in 2004. It is expected to decrease even further by 1 percent until 2020, primarily through improved building insulation and the use of energy-efficient appliances and vehicles.  Taking the proposed measures into consideration, energy consumption should decrease by as much as 2.5 percent. After 2020, energy consumption is set to rise once more, mainly due to industrial growth. The objective in the Energy Agreement to save an additional 100 petajoules of energy in 2020 is not feasible with the currently established campaigns.

The depletion of its gas reserves will change the Netherlands from a net gas exporting country to a net gas importing country between 2025 and 2030. Energy savings and the transition to cheaper coal-fired power stations mean gas consumption will be lower in the future, but gas production is decreasing at an even faster rate. Despite the falling demand for oil products in traffic and transport, demand remains constant, in particular due to the increasing industrial use of oil. This means oil may replace natural gas as the major energy source. The increase in electricity generation by coal-fired power stations will probably be of limited duration as a number of older coal-fired power stations are due to close within a few years, and from 2020 the share of wind and solar energy will increase considerably.

The share of renewable energy in energy consumption has risen from 1.4 to 4.5 percent in the last decade and researchers expect it to grow significantly from 2017. Even though there are many uncertainties surrounding the development of renewable energy, the share will have increased to more than 12 percent by 2020. This is less than the 14 percent agreed on at European level. A share of approximately 15 percent is expected in 2023 and if all goes well, the Energy Agreement’s objective of reaching 16 percent renewable energy can be achieved in 2023. “However,” the researchers warn, “there is an equally good chance that the share may only reach 13 percent by 2023.” More than a third of the generated electricity will then consist of renewable electricity. By 2030, half of all electricity will be solar, wind and biomass-generated.

With a current GDP (gross domestic product) share of 5.4 percent, the economic significance of the energy sector in the Netherlands is substantial. While the traditional oil and gas sector experiences stagnation and decline, sustainable energy activities are set to grow. On balance, total energy-related employment is rising due to a shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy and savings.

The energy bill of Dutch households has risen considerably in the last ten years, but is expected to become cheaper in the coming years due to further energy savings and solar energy production. In 2020, the energy bill should be about 60 euros cheaper than in 2014.

Greenhouse gas emissions in the Netherlands fell by 9 percent between 2000 and 2013, to 192 megatonnes of CO2 equivalents. Current measures will lead to a further decrease, to 183 megatonnes in 2020. If the proposed measures are taken into account as well, the emissions could even decrease to 176 megatonnes. It is striking that in the future, economic growth and emissions will no longer be connected. While the Dutch economy is expected to grow by 13 percent until 2020, greenhouse gas emissions will decrease by 5 percent in this period due in part to an increasingly large share of renewable energy.

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Press release; Image: ECN