Netherlands

Netherlands

Renewables quota axed at last minute

The Netherlands' fourth National Environment Plan identifies seven major environmental problems that it says can only be tackled through a fundamental policy review at both national and international level. Beyond recommending that all government departments use a minimum of 50% green power, however, the report is relatively short on specific proposals for boosting production from renewable sources of energy.

Achieving a sustainable energy mix by 2030 is a central objective of the Netherlands' fourth National Environment Plan (NMP-4) presented by environment minister Jan Pronk to parliament on June 13. The report, which is significantly more ambitious than any of its predecessors, identifies seven major environmental problems that it says can only be tackled through a fundamental policy review at both national and international level.

Radical measures to tackle climate change will require an end to short term political thinking and the beginning of "systematic innovation" in the economy, says the report, which sets out the broad outlines of Dutch environmental policy for the next 30 years in 235 pages.

Plan lacks specifics

Among the measures proposed by Pronk for achieving a sustainable energy mix are an end to subsidies for non-renewables in the transport and energy sectors, and the internalisation of environmental costs in the prices of goods and services. But beyond recommending that all government departments use a minimum of 50% green power, the report is relatively short on specific proposals for boosting production from renewable sources of energy.

In part this is because detailed plans for a 3% wind/solar quota to be imposed on Dutch households from 2003, rising to 5% in 2005 and subject to further increases, were scrapped at the last minute following opposition from economics minister Annemarie Jorritsma. A long time advocate of tax incentives, Jorritsma argues that existing measures should be given a chance to prove their worth and that an obligation on consumers to buy a fixed percentage of their power from renewable energy sources is impracticable when power companies are already struggling to meet demand for green power. The cabinet will now review the situation in the autumn.

Nor is their any alteration to the onshore wind capacity target which remains set at 1500 MW. A proposed 40-75 million tonne reduction in carbon emissions to be achieved through more use of renewables is based largely on the development of some 10,000-15,000 MW of offshore capacity in the North Sea, combined with a 25% annual increase in solar PV capacity and large scale imports of biomass. Improved energy efficiency will save another 40-60 million tonnes and cleaner burning of fossil fuels some 50-60 million tonnes, calculates the Dutch Energy Research Centre.

Early reactions to the plan, which cost some NLG 30 billion, have been critical, largely because Pronk gives no details on how his vision is to be financed.

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