Stagnation in growth in electricity production from onshore wind and solar puts Dutch long-term targets at risk

The Dutch Climate Agreement target of producing 35 TWh of electricity from onshore solar and wind farms by 2030 is well within reach. However, the growth needed for longer-term goals is stagnating according to Monitor RES 2023, the latest progress analysis of the Regional Energy Strategies (RESs) by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL).

With an RES, 30 energy regions in the Netherlands together with social partners, businesses and residents make broadly supported regional choices to realise goals from the 2019 Dutch Climate Agreement. For instance, the regions must jointly produce at least 35 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity with wind turbines and large-scale solar PV systems on land by 2030 at the latest, and they must each draw up a Regional Heat Structure (RSW).

By 2021, RESs 1.0 have been administratively adopted by provinces, municipalities and water authorities in all regions. The regions further elaborated these plans in progress documents. PBL monitors the progress of RESs at the request of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate on behalf of the National RES Programme. The Monitor RES 2023 is the fourth in a row.

Target 55 TWh not in sight

Onshore wind and solar parks are expected to produce 34 to 44 TWh of electricity in 2030, making the 35 TWh target likely to be reached. But the regions’ ‘total bid’ of 55 TWh in their original proposals, set as a target by the now outgoing climate and energy minister in a parliamentary letter at the end of 2022, is not in sight. Even if the revised expectations for solar energy production, due to the rapid growth of household level solar panels, is added (around 5 TWh by 2030), the target of 55 TWh would still remain out of sight.

Climate-neutral energy system requires constant growth of emission-free electricity

The period beyond 2030 is beyond the scope of RESs for now, but electrification is a cornerstone of the longer-term energy transition. In the National Energy System Plan (NPE), the Ministry of Economic Affairs outlines the development of the energy system towards climate neutrality in 2050, foreseeing an increase in the share of electricity in total energy consumption from 20 per cent to 50-70 per cent in 2050.

Increasing delay in realisation of solar parks

The Monitor RES 2023, however, shows delays in both the concretisation of plans and the implementation of plans that were already concrete. Wind and solar farm projects are now regularly delayed or cancelled, where previously this hardly ever happened. For the first time, solar parks did not go ahead despite an approved subsidy. Also for the first time, wind farm developers with an advanced development process have resubmitted an ongoing subsidy application, risking losing their approved subsidy decision. Progress reports show that a third of the regions are on track to achieve their original ambitions. In half of the cases, the pace in the concretisation of plans is slowing down due to, among other things, spatial restrictions and grid congestion, or due to conscious choices by the region for a careful spatial process.

Clarity important for onshore renewable energy

Realisation of plans is hampered by uncertainties in several areas. For instance, the SDE++ subsidy scheme for large-scale solar and wind energy expires in 2025. It is still uncertain whether financial support will be available after that. The government is also working on stricter environmental standards for onshore wind farms. In the proposal currently on the table, the distance of wind turbines from built environment will be at least twice the tip height of the wind turbine. For the development of projects, it is important to have clarity on the rules of the game. For solar parks on land, the possibilities are limited, while large-scale solar PV on roofs is encouraged.

RES regions play important role in balancing spatial interests

The RES regions have to deal with a constantly changing context, in which new arguments and bottlenecks keep emerging. This puts pressure on the shared spatial vision of the future energy system in a number of regions. Municipalities, provinces, water authorities, grid operators and the state are taking their responsibilities in implementing the RES and coming up with their own visions of what they want with sustainable energy. For instance, at higher scale level, the emphasis is more often on a techno-economic robust energy system with maximum generation, while at the local level there is more focus on spatial and social value. The longer-term challenges require continuous coordination to arrive at a shared vision. Here, the RES region offers an opportunity to bring together different interests, local and supra-local, and strengthen the dialogue on renewable energy on land. The full report (NL) is available here. Source: PBL

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