The Dutch perspective

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With the Dutch finalising their "green certificate" system to allow consumers to shop for different brands of green electricity from July, the plenary session offered a Dutch perspective on the opportunities and challenges facing renewable technologies as the sector takes its first steps into a liberalised energy market.

For NOVEM's boss, Jef Pleumeekers, realism meant primarily a mood of cautious optimism. "EU consumers are up-to date, self-confident and critical," he observed. A clear system of green energy labelling, which brings greater transparency to the market, thus helping them make an informed choice about energy consumption, should boost green electricity sales, he felt. But at present, he confessed, "We don't know what motivates energy choice."

This message was to be repeated in various contexts throughout the three days where the general consensus was that the challenges of liberalisation are just as great as the opportunities, and that for the time being legislation would continue to be needed. While reviewing the Netherlands' progress towards securing 10% of its electricity from renewables by 2020, Noe Van Hulst of the economy ministry fielded a comment pointing out that as a result of increased grey power imports, the Dutch power mix had never been dirtier. "We need to consider how to cope with the trend towards rising imports," Van Hulst acknowledged, before asking again for EU action to harmonise renewables support.

More realism was on offer from the Dutch environment ministry's Hans van der Vlist. Renewables alone are not enough to alter climate change, he argued. Meeting the Netherlands' Kyoto commitment to reduce CO2 emissions by 6% on 1990 levels would require emissions trading and significant government investment in clean fossil fuels and other technological innovations such as underground CO2 storage, he pointed out.

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