Profits from Groningen’s gas fields should be used to finance the Netherlands’ conversion to green energy, the head of the company responsible for gas production has said.
Gerard Schotman, director of the Nederlandse Aardolie Maatschappij (NAM), called for the government to be more ambitious with its energy policy. He said the five remaining coal plants should be closed as quickly as possible and a special fund set up to pay for new wind and solar energy farms.
‘At the moment the profits from gas still run into the billions and we can invest in generating the energy of the future,’ he told AD.
‘We should use gas on the one hand as a transitional fossil fuel, and on the other by using the profits to accelerate the process of generating renewable energy.’
Netherlands falling behind
The government’s renewable energy strategy includes a target of generating 16% of energy from renewable sources by 2023. It has also reduced annual gas production to 24 billion cubic metres, to limit earthquake damage in Groningen province, and is scrapping the legal requirement for all new houses to be connected to the gas mains.
‘I think the government should be more ambitious,’ said Schotman. ‘We are falling behind other countries in Europe. For example, we should replace coal-fired power stations with gas. Coal emits twice as many CO2 as natural gas, as well as fine particles that are bad for people’s health.’
He warned it would take time and care to phase out the nation’s gas supply. ‘We’re going to depend heavily Dutch natural gas as a transitional fuel for the next few decades. People tend to be further ahead in their minds with switching energy than is the case in practice.
‘In 50 years’ time it’s likely that nobody will be burning fossil fuels and we’ll be generating our electricity from solar panels and wind turbines. Gas will then be mostly an industrial fuel for heavy industry, aviation, shipping and other forms of transport.’