More projects by Dutch energy cooperatives in 2023 despite decline in suitable sites

Despite the decline in availability of suitable development sites for wind and solar farms in the Netherlands, the number of projects realised by energy cooperatives increased in 2023. This is one of the conclusions from the ninth Lokale Energie Monitor (local energy monitor) by climate foundation HIER.

In the past year, 150 new solar and wind projects were added, of which 146 new cooperative solar projects, mostly on rooftops. A doubling of solar capacity is planned over the next two years.

Cooperative wind projects

Three new cooperative wind farms were added in 2023. In Staphorst (Bovenwind Wind Farm), Vlaardingen (Oeverwind Wind Farm) and Terheijden. In Woltersum, Groningen, a small village wind turbine has been realized. Cooperative wind capacity increased by 21.7 MW in one year, an increase of 6.9%. By the end of 2023, 336.3 MW of collective wind capacity was operational on land. The collective share is 4.9% of the total wind-on-land capacity (6.7GW) in the Netherlands on land.

There are 53.4 MW of new collective wind capacity planned to be added for the next two to three years, of which 4 MW is under construction, 32.4 MW in preparation for construction, and 16.9 MW awaiting a ruling from the Council of State and/or final financing. If all goes ahead, the total installed cooperative wind capacity will increase to 389 MW between 2025 and 2026.

In addition, at least another 96 MW is in preparation; the initiators are preparing for the planning procedure or are already in the middle of it. Find the full report (in Dutch) on cooperative wind projects here.

Cooperative wind capacity by province. (green: realised before 2023, purple: realised in 2023, blue: under construction, organge: construction in preparation, and red: waiting for decision by Council of State)

Shortage of development sites

However, the Monitor does identify a number of challenges. For one, finding a suitable location for a cooperative solar farm or wind project has become more difficult in recent years. Consequently, new projects are not getting off the ground as easily. National and local government policies are important factors here. In some regions, new projects for onshore wind and solar are completely ruled out. In other regions, there is still limited room for new projects.

“The energy system of the future will also largely be a local energy system, in which energy cooperatives play a crucial role. A local government that adapts, stimulates and provides space is needed.” – Gijs Termeer, director at Climate Foundation HERE

454,000 households

The Netherlands currently has a total of 714 energy cooperatives, active in almost 89% of the country’s municipalities. The number is just slightly more than in previous years. Combined, these energy cooperatives have 130,000 members, an increase of 9% from last year. Cooperatives deal with solar, wind, heat and energy saving activities and mobility. In addition to these energy cooperatives, for the first time the monitor counts at least 700 residents’ initiatives that are active in the field of energy saving in villages, neighborhoods and districts, whether or not together with energy cooperatives.

Cooperation pays off

An important development is that there are an increasing number of examples of successful (financial) collaborations between municipalities and energy cooperatives. This is producing measurable results, such as growth in the use of energy coaches and the number of households taking energy-saving measures.

“While developing local ownership is no easy task, we are increasingly seeing that with the right efforts and support from the national and regional level, it can be done. The realization that generating and distributing renewable power locally can also help strengthen communities and reduce grid congestion seems to be gaining traction within politicians at the regional and national level. Thus we are getting closer and closer to a new market model for generating and distributing our renewable energy that benefits everyone.” – Siward Zomer, chairman Energie Samen

Locale Energy Monitor

The ‘Lokale Energie Monitor’ is a publication of climate foundation HIER. Energie Samen is a collaborative partner. With the Monitor, HIER has been measuring the impact of local energy cooperatives in the Netherlands for nine years. HIER supports residents’ initiatives and energy cooperatives by developing and sharing knowledge, highlighting good examples and organizing meetings. Source: Klimaatstichting HIER

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