RES-E Policy in the Netherlands

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Abstract:

In the Netherlands, the energy competence is devoted to the ministry of the Economy, through the general directorate of energy. Nevertheless, several specific topics of the energy policy are also managed by other ministries, such as the ministry of the Environment for waste and climate policy; the ministry of Agriculture and Nature Management for biomass and wind energy; the ministry of Finance for ecotax; and the ministry of Science for research. The municipalities and the provinces also have specific competences related to land-use planning and can help to develop local renewable energy projects on their territories. They also play an important role as owners of electricity and gas distribution companies.

The definition of renewable/green energy has been subject to a highly sensitive political debate in the Netherlands. The two main issues are, on the one hand, the definition of the renewable energies that are taken into consideration regarding of the national targets (large definition, “renewable energy”) and, on the other hand, the definition of the eligible renewable energy sources/technologies for the policy support mechanisms (more restricted definition, “green energy”). In the Netherlands, the concepts of “sustainable energy”, “renewable energy” and “green energy” have been used from the 1980s onwards, both by the Dutch government and by the energy companies. These concepts need to be clarified before tackling further analysis of the Dutch RES-E policy.

The terms “sustainable” and “renewable” energy were predominantly used by the Dutch government at the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s, while the concept “green energy” appeared only in the middle of the 1990s both in the public and private programs (see figure 1).

In the government's definitions, the concept of “sustainable” energy is particularly relevant for CO2 emission reduction targets, since it covers both fossil-fuel saving energy options and fossil-fuel free options (among which the renewable energies). The term “renewable” energy only refers to the energy produced from renewable energy sources such as wind, hydro, sun, biomass, waste etc. However, within the renewable energy category, one must distinguish less environmentally-friendly technologies (such as industrial heat pumps, large hydro, waste) from more environmentally-friendly ones (e.g. solar, wind, geothermal energy). The term “green” energy is usually associated with the latter renewable energy sources, clean and environmentally-friendly renewable energy sources or technologies. In addition, the concept “green” energy often refers to technologies that have lower economic performance than conventional ones and therefore need policy support. The concept “green energy” was first used by the Dutch government in 1995 with the so-called “Green funds” policy, which stipulated that the returns from green funds invested by private individuals in Dutch financial institutions are exempt from income tax. The eligible investment projects for these green funds covered all renewable energy projects, excluding waste and any other biomass than wood or energy crops. In 1998, only the small hydropower plants with a capacity of less than 15 MW were eligible for the tradable green certificates and the energy tax exemption. Then, in 2002, even the small hydro plants were excluded from this financial support. Finally, in 2003, the concept of “sustainable electricity” was reintroduced with the MEP law that encompasses an extended definition of eligible RES-E including hydropower and mixed-biomass. In conclusion, the definition of RES-E changes over time according to political or economic strategies.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3726/978-3-0352-6244-5_6

Publication date: January 1, 2008

More about this publication?
  • How and Why Do Policies Change?
    How and why do policies change? The author addresses this question by examining the renewable electricity policies of five European countries (Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, and the UK) over the last thirty years. Employing a comparative approach that is qualitative yet consistent and rigorous, she describes how these countries' policies changed over time, whether incrementally or comprehensively, and shows how those changes may be explained, citing political, economic, social, and technological factors.
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  • Learn more about Peter Lang @ GSE Research
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