New energy policy emphasises conservation but neglects renewables

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As anticipated, the Netherlands' new energy policy submitted for parliamentary approval this summer emphasises energy conservation and new technological developments rather than directly stimulating renewable energy production. The report, "Now for Later," notes that as natural gas supplies dwindle the Netherlands will become increasingly dependent on energy imports from OPEC and Russia, necessitating "successful energy diplomacy." Instead of stimulating renewables development, however, energy conservation is presented as the central plank of the government's response to this tendency, with yet another system of tradable certificates -- this time "white" certificates -- being proposed to encourage energy conservation at all levels of consumption. The original target of 10% renewable energy in the electricity mix by 2010 has been cut back to 9% with a promise that the cabinet will strive to reach the original target, but this will be dependent on innovation within the sector. Given its geographically widespread availability, coal will play an important role in ensuring security of supply while the cabinet cannot exclude the possibility of increased reliance on nuclear in the long term, says the report. Although construction of new nuclear plant in the Netherlands itself is unlikely, maintaining nuclear expertise is identified as a priority. The report is in line with earlier decisions by economics minister Laurens Brinkhorst to suspend subsidies for new offshore wind farms and to axe subsidies for the renovation of existing wind turbines in order to save available funds for investment in improved and more cost-effective technologies as they come online, leading some observers to suggest the report should be titled "not now, but later."

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