Dutch fall badly behind on 2020 target

The Netherlands, once seen as a green energy pioneer, has become the biggest laggard among all 27 EU member states in terms of progressing towards its 2020 renewables target, according to Rabobank.

The share of renewables within the Netherlands’ electricity mix rose from 6% in 2005 to 10% in 2011, a period during which the Dutch became global leaders in the offshore wind sector.

But political changes made towards the end of that period – coupled with strategic decisions taken by the country’s small crop of power utilities – have since relegated the country to a renewables backwater within the European context.

The Netherlands added 119MW of wind capacity last year and 125MW of PV – out of a Europe-wide 12.7GW and 17.2GW, respectively.

The share of renewables in the Dutch mix “barely increased” in 2012 and “could well decrease” this year, according to Netherlands-based Rabobank.

When current Prime Minister Mark Rutte – head of the centre-right Liberals – took power in 2010, the government quickly binned the country’s long-standing but self-imposed 20% renewables target for 2020, choosing instead to fall back on the EU-imposed 16% target.

Also dropped was a 5GW offshore wind target. But the lack of strong targets is only one problem facing the country.

The country’s high population density means it is difficult to develop onshore wind farms – even among a populace largely supportive of wind power.

Also, the country's past two renewables incentive schemes (the SDE and the subsequent SDE+) skewed support towards biomass, but used “unrealistic” feedstock cost assumptions, Rabobank says.

As a result, a number of large biomass projects the Dutch government was counting on to meet its 2020 targets “have been cancelled or are not yet built”.

The Netherlands was recently deemed the world’s 24th “most attractive” country for renewables investment by the consultancy Ernst & Young – behind the likes of Morocco and Greece.

Nevertheless, it is not the end of the road for Dutch renewables.

In the near term, some analysts see potential for the country to make up for lost ground via PV, given the long lead times for on- and offshore wind projects. 

Even offshore, there is hope. The announcement in January that Mitsubishi had bought a 50% in Eneco’s 129MW Luchterduinen offshore wind project – now slated for completion in 2015 – provided a jolt to the moribund Dutch offshore sector.

Rabobank notes that the current Dutch government – a coalition still headed by Rutte following the 2012 election – is more moderate on energy policy.

And while the Dutch may be the biggest laggards at present, they are certainly not alone in struggling to meet their 2020 targets, with Rabobank deeming it "unlikely" that the EU as a whole will ultimately meet its 20% target.