Coal-fired power plants could run faster, but climate target looks certain this year


The Netherlands is again running coal-fired power plants at full power, so less (Russian) natural gas is needed to generate electricity. This will release additional CO2, but the national climate goal is unlikely to be compromised this year.

Last year, the goal of the Urgenda climate dossier was not achieved. Emissions fell 23.9% from 1990, according to preliminary figures from the CBS statistics agency, while the court’s was expected to be at least 25%.

High gasoline prices have resulted in significant savings in our energy consumption this year. People are turning down the heat and taking shorter showers to save on their energy bills. Less gas was also used in factories and greenhouses.

In addition, the relatively mild spring meant that we needed less gas to heat homes and commercial premises. In the Netherlands as a whole, gas consumption fell by a quarter from January to May, according to recent figures from Gasunie.

Our electricity supply is also getting a little greener each year, due to the growth in the number of solar panels and wind turbines. Last year, about a third of the electricity came from the sun and the wind, whereas a year earlier it was just over a quarter. That growth will continue this year, so power plants won’t have to work as hard on sunny days to produce electricity.

Emissions are heading towards minus 30%

All of these factors reduced emissions by 11% in the first three months of 2022, CBS calculated. Nearly 5 megatons less CO2 have already been released into the air.

This saving is greater than the additional emissions caused by coal-fired power plants when operating at full capacity for an entire year. Repealing the law that limited coal-fired power generation will result in up to 4.5 megatonnes of additional emissions per year, Climate and Energy Minister Rob Jetten wrote in a letter to the House on Monday. representatives.

Energy expert Martien Visser believes the Netherlands will be heading for a 30% decrease in CO2 emissions this year compared to 1990, he wrote on Twitter. According to him, if the coal-fired power plants are fully operational in the second half of the year, it will save 1 percentage point, or minus 29%: still more than enough to meet Urgenda’s target.

Jetten wants to offset coal emissions

But if we have very cold winters in the next two years and energy consumption increases again, the climate target could be compromised again, warns Jetten. That is why he wants to take additional measures to offset emissions from coal-fired power plants in the coming years. They must also ensure that the Netherlands continues to work towards reducing CO2 emissions by at least 55% by 2030.

It is not yet known what these additional measures will be, but in his letter to Parliament, the climate minister suggests that he is mainly aiming for additional energy savings. Generating additional sustainable energy is difficult in the short term, due to power grid capacity issues and the long lead times needed to build wind farms, for example.

Because the cabinet no longer has to compensate coal-fired power stations to limit their production, a substantial kitty will become available which the cabinet will want to use to encourage large gas consumers to temporarily reduce their consumption. Through a kind of auction, companies can bid against each other to save as much gas as possible at the best possible price.

Such an auction was originally intended as an emergency measure in the event of a gas shortage, but according to a Jetten spokesperson, the ministry now sees it as an option to guarantee gas and CO2 savings. . The cabinet wants to make a decision on the auction no later than August.

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