Monday 17 May 2021

Just 206 homes have been made gas free, two years into project: Volkskrant

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Only 206 homes in the Netherlands have so far been made ‘gas free’, putting in doubt ambitious plans to end the country’s dependence on gas altogether by 2050, the Volkskrant reports.

Some 27 trials in neighbourhoods and villages were started in 2018 but technical problems, spiralling costs and reluctance on the part of home owners is holding the project back, the paper said.

The Dutch government has pledged to ensure all homes in the country are gas free in 2050, aiming for 2,000 in the first two years and building up to 1.5 million homes by 2030.

‘The fact that we have not yet managed to make at least 1,000 homes gas free is a logical consequence of the meticulous process of involving locals in the decision to make homes gas free by local authorities,’ a spokesman from the ministry of home affairs, which is supervising the project, said.

In The Hague and Utrecht, housing corporations are trying to persuade their tenants to opt for a city heating network, which would be a quick fix for large number of homes, but these have not proved popular, despite offers of a free set of pots and pans and electric cooking workshops.

Even in Loppersum, in Groningen, where many homes were damaged by earthquakes caused by gas extraction, a project aimed at installing such a network hit a brick wall and locals have rejected biomass plants and wind turbines as new energy sources.

‘It’s not as if people in the earthquake area are necessarily more motivated [to have their homes made gas free]’, local project leader Willy Jansen told the paper. The extraction of gas in Groningen is being phased out and is projected to end next year.

Small councils

Smaller municipalities in particular have been struggling with the time consuming process of finding feasible and affordable alternatives for gas – such as heat pumps, geothermal heat and surplus heat from industry.

‘We found we just don’t have the expertise and experience for this,’ a spokesman for Assen town council said.

One of the aims of the exercise is that people will not pay more for heating and cooking than before but older and badly insulated homes in particular are proving a challenge in this respect.

In 2020 another €100m has been pledged to 19 new sites, with more to follow this year.

Some of these will focus on better insulation and other energy saving measures. According to the Volkskrant, a number of project leaders consider this to be a more realistic way of decreasing CO2 emissions than making homes gas free.

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