The Dutch cabinet plans to use coal-fired power stations at full capacity in the coming period to make sure that there is enough gas left to heat homes in the coming winter.
The decision has been taken despite the option of using gas from under Groningen province. Those fields are currently being wound down because of the resulting earthquakes.
The Dutch decision, which goes against official government policy, comes a day after Germany said it too would fire up coal-fired power stations to conserve gas stocks for central heating.
That decision was prompted by an announcement by Russian gas giant Gazprom last week, which said it was reducing supplies through the Nord Streat 1 pipeline for technical reasons.
Althought there is no acute shortage of gas at the moment the step needs to be taken to ensure that there is enough gas for the winter, climate minister Rob Jetten told a press conference late on Monday afternoon.
‘If these were not special times, we would never do this,’ he said. ‘This is an important step to ensure the security of supply.’ Gas storage is currently at between 45% and 55% capacity.
Coal-fired power stations are currently restricted to 35% of capacity to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Measures are now being worked out to compensate for this, Jetten said. The Netherlands has four coal-fired power stations and all are supposed to have switched to non-fossil sources by 2030.
Big gas users will be able to get a financial incentive to use less gas and extra measures will be announced in the September budget, he said. This would also include extra help for low income households.
Some of the funding for this would come from savings made on compensation for the owners of coal-fired power stations when production was cut.
In the meantime, Jetten urged people to do all they could to cut back on gas usage. ‘It might be an odd thing to ask in the summer, but every cubic metre of gas counts,’ he said. ‘So take shorter showers and increase your home insulation now, to use less gas in the winter.’
Using more gas from Groningen would be a very last resort, Jetten said.
Mines minister Hans Vijlbrief said that he still planned to officially close down the Groningen fields in 2023 or 2024, but that all 11 would be kept open in the meantime in case of an emergency.
‘Groningen gas cannot be used safely,’ he said. ‘The mining inspectorate is very clear about this. It can only be used when public safety is under threat.’
Russia has threatened to cut gas deliveries to countries which refuse to pay in roubles and last month Gazprom said it would no longer deliver to Dutch trading giant GasTerra because of the payment dispute.
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