Dutch renewable energy consumption is increasing – but is it fast enough?

According to a recent report released in early June by Statistics Netherlands (CBS), the usage of green energy increased by 16% in 2019 relative to the previous year across all renewable sources. However, this only accounted for 8.6% of the total energy consumption (compared to 7.4% in 2018), which falls below the target set at EU level for the share of renewable energy in the Netherlands to be 14% by 2020.

It is no doubt good to hear that there is an increasing trend in the usage of renewable energy across the Netherlands. Leading this growth was increased consumption of biomass energy (making up for more than half of the increase), followed by solar power and to a lesser extent wind energy.

solar energy usage

Largest renewable energy source is biomass

Making up 60% of all the Dutch renewable energy consumption, biomass is the single largest source of renewable energy and consumption rose by 15% in 2019. Solar energy consumption (for electricity and heat) increased by 37% in 2019 and wind energy consumption rose by 7%.

Liquid biomass fuel for transport is by far the largest consumed biomass source, with biomass in power plants being the least – though it was in this latter area where the largest increase in 2019 (more than 50%) was seen due to increased co-firing of biomass at coal-fired plants. Critics argue that such use of biomass (wood chips) in power plants can be seen to be more polluting than coal and its use is not sustainable, though the Netherlands Environment Assessment Agency (PBL) considers there is no current alternative in order to achieve Dutch renewable energy targets.

Although, the upward trend of renewable energy usage is positive, there needs to be further increases if the Netherlands is going to reach 14% of all energy consumption coming from renewable sources by the end of 2020 – which is the target set at EU level. According to the CBS report, this target can still be achieved by consuming more domestic renewable energy but also by buying renewable energy from countries that are above target.


Business solar capacity now exceeds residential

Taking a more detailed look at solar energy usage across the Netherlands, a report released by CBS on 19 June announced that business solar capacity now exceeds residential. In 2019, the installed capacity of commercial and industrial solar systems exceeded that of home solar systems for the first time. Total installed capacity grew by 49% in 2019 relative to the previous year, with business showing a stronger growth (+59%) compared to residential (+39).

solar energy usageThe municipality of Midden-Groningen had the largest solar capacity installed by business, which is also the location of the largest solar park in the Netherlands that became operational at the end of 2019. The largest capacity for residential rooftop installations was found in the municipality of Utrecht, followed closely by Groningen and Eindhoven.

As part of the Dutch National Climate Agreement, the Netherlands has been divided into 30 energy regions. In each of these regions, authorities at the provincial, water board and municipal level work together in drafting Regional Energy Strategies (RES) to achieve a greener energy supply. In relation to solar power installations, in 2019 the RES region of Fryslân had the highest power generation capacity in renewable energy, followed by Groningen province.