The target of at least 35 TWh of renewable electricity from onshore wind and solar power by 2030 seems feasible. However, increasing scarcity on the electricity grid and the recent decision of the Council of State concerning wind projects are bottlenecks that must be taken into account. These are some of the main conclusions of the RES 1.0 Monitor of the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL).
In the 2019 Climate Agreement, thirty Dutch energy regions were given the target of producing at least 35 TWh of renewable electricity from onshore wind turbines and solar panels by 2030. In the so called Regional Energy Strategy (RES), each of the regions describe how they will achieve this joint target.
The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Change has asked PBL to continuously and independently monitor the development of the RESs. In the Monitor draft RES from 2020, PBL concluded that the target of 35 TWh seemed feasible within a broad bandwidth of 31 to 46 TWh, but that there were major uncertainties, particularly concerning the capacity of the electricity grid. After the draft RES, the regions further elaborated and refined their plans.
The Monitor RES 1.0, published on Thursday, is an analysis of the RESs 1.0 which were offered on 1 July 2021. The RESs 1.0 show that the regions have worked hard to elaborate the draft RESs and have also made the organisation of citizen participation more concrete. All this despite the limitations due to the coronapandemic. Compared to the draft RESs, there is a 5% increase in the amount of renewable electricity that the regions say they want to produce by 2030. In the Monitor RES 1.0, the range is 35-46 TWh and the mid-point is 41 TWh. The total supply is now 55.1 TWh. This was previously 52.5 TWh.
In terms of technology, the growth between draft RES and RES 1.0 is mainly in solar panels. The amount of onshore wind in the bid remained about the same (24.3 TWh). There is also a considerable amount of production for which regions indicate that they still want to make a choice between large-scale solar PV and wind turbines (about 4.4 TWh in total), and between large-scale solar PV on fields or on roofs (about 2.1 TWh in total).
With the new figures, the chances of reaching the 35 TWh target have clearly increased. Based only on current projects and pipeline projects (for which subsidies have been granted), renewable electricity production could reach around 31 TWh. Additional projects are therefore needed to reach the 35 TWh target in 2030 with a sufficient degree of certainty. The RESs contain plenty of plans for this. The RESs 2.0 should be ready by summer 2023.
Bottlenecks in the short term
Although the 35TWh target seems attainable, there are still many uncertainties affecting it, both in the short and long term. In the short term (up to 2026), the uncertainties are more technical in nature and concrete actions are needed. With the strong growth in installed capacity of solar panels, the scarcity on the electricity network has increased significantly since 2018 and will be a chronic obstacle in the coming years. This requires a faster pace to match planning and realisation of renewable energy generation with available and new grid capacity. This involves both prioritisation and phasing in over time.
With regard to the growth of onshore wind energy, the recent ruling by the Council of State on the limited validity of environmental regulations when siting wind turbines is causing uncertainty and delay. New general environmental rules may therefore be needed for the licensing of onshore wind projects.
Long term perspective
With approximately 55 TWh, the energy regions together have submitted a more than adequate bid to meet the 35 TWh target. At the same time, this bid gives the regions the opportunity to look beyond 2030. This requires clarity from the national government about the route beyond 2030. An important aspect is the connection with the need for renewable energy in other areas, such as making the heating systems in houses and buildings more sustainable, the Sustainable Industry Infrastructure Programme (PIDI) and the National Charging Infrastructure Agenda for electric transport.
Proper phasing of projects will become increasingly important as demand for electricity increases in the future. Given the long lead time of spatial planning processes, the considerations in the RESs are also significant for the period after 2030, both in terms of the production of renewable electricity and the spatial quality of the landscape. It would be wise for central government to start discussions with the regions now about long-term expectations. Source: PBL