Involve all parties, technology, cost distribution and behaviour when designing effective and fair policies for a natural gas-free future
The intention in the Dutch Climate Agreement to disconnect homes from natural gas has provoked quite some discussion. Questions are raised about the costs involved, whether those costs will be shared fairly and what exactly residents can expect and when. There is a need for more clarity. It has now been decided that the built environment in the Netherlands must be completely natural gas-free in 2050. The reason is not only the desire to achieve a CO2-neutral energy supply, but also to reduce the earthquake problem in Groningen in the short term. A discussion about the different options to replace natural gas is still open: will it be heat networks, heat pumps or renewable gas? It is still unclear to many public and private parties what alternatives should be implemented in the different neighbourhoods, and who will play which role. Contact with various parties and the involvement of technology, a fair distribution of costs and the behaviour of residents are important to arrive at practical solutions that do justice to all involved.
Making all homes and other buildings in the Netherlands natural gas-free is a huge task that can best be tackled at the local level due to the diversity of building types, insulation levels and local availability of alternative heat sources. As part of the regional energy strategies, the Dutch Climate Agreement stipulates that municipalities are given the task of making plans for the natural gas-free neighbourhoods. It appears that municipalities still have many questions, such as which options are available and which party should take on which role.
To come to a good approach, information from ministries, municipalities, construction companies, residents and other stakeholders is important. With the aid of this, practical building blocks for a new heat supply can be proposed, in connection to which party should be involved. It is mainly about making the energy supply more sustainable, adjusting the infrastructure for sustainable alternatives and insulating homes so that the heat demand falls, but also about non-energy-related improvements to the home. These non-energy related improvements, like a new kitchen, enhance the comfort level and make the natural gas-free housing more attractive for residents.
Not all homeowners and landlords will be persuaded by the argument that our country must become gas-free or that they can save energy. It is much more important to make natural gas-free homes attractive as a concept, for example by emphasizing the increased comfort of a natural gas-free and better insulated home. Construction companies, installers or other entrepreneurs should offer a concept for the renovation of a home in which the home is made sustainable, affordable and in one go. There are great opportunities for companies to come up with innovative concepts.
Work is being done on methods to make natural gas-free concepts affordable. Smarter production can greatly reduce the costs of phasing out natural gas from homes, certainly if it happens on a large scale. The costs are often still too high for homeowners. If price falls are not realized quickly enough, it may be necessary for the government to take income measures to achieve the goal of acceptable costs for everyone. Companies will only invest in new concepts if the government formulates clear ambitions, as happened with offshore wind energy. With the Dutch Climate Agreement, these ambitions are in sight. It is about boosting the market by offering certainty with well-defined objectives for the longer term. When the time comes, it must be possible to achieve the goal of a natural gas-free environment by 2050.
See also the theme natural gas-free neighbourhoods.