Green heat won’t be possible by 2030, says environmental assessment agency

Biomass is still essential, says the PBL Photo:

The Netherlands is in danger of falling short of its green energy commitments, according to a new report by government advice agency the PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency.

It warns that if there are no new subsidies for wood-based biomass used in energy production, alternative heat sources like geothermal energy, heat from industry and ‘aquathermal’ energy will not be ready to take up the strain.

‘The Climate Agreement’s sustainability ambitions for heat networks will then probably have to be abandoned,’ the agency warns.

The agency was asked to draw up advice by the Dutch environment ministry, which wants to claw back subsidies for biomass-based heating. However, the PBL warns that heat pumps, which take natural warmth out of the environment, are unlikely to work sufficiently in many Dutch buildings: high costs, excessive demands on the electricity network, the space they take up and the fact that houses need to be much better insulated will take a toll.

Hybrid pumps and ‘green gases’ such as hydrogen are developing technologies, the PBL adds, and ‘it is extremely unclear if by 2030 enough green gas and, in the longer term, sustainable hydrogen, can be produced.’

The report recommends continuing to use biomass for a ‘bridging period’ until these problems have been solved.

Meanwhile, cities such as Amsterdam – which aims to have every district off conventional gas by 2040 – has asked for central government investment to see whether geothermal sources, 500m and deeper under the capital, could provide an alternative source of sustainable energy.

During the cold snap last week, some households reported that it was difficult to keep their homes warm enough with a heat pump, probably due to insufficient insulation.

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