Can offshore wind drive the Netherlands’ green energy transition?
The nation famous for its windmills is second only to China for new offshore wind capacity, with 1.5GW installed in 2020. But the Dutch green energy transition faces a few clogs in the machine.
Despite doubling its share of energy from renewables between 2008 and 2019, the Netherlands is still heavily dependent on fossil fuels, and on energy and emission-intensive industries that will be difficult to decarbonise.
In a study by Utility Bidder to find the most fossil-fuel-dependent countries, Luxembourg and the Netherlands came joint fourth, deriving 90% of their energy from fossil fuels.
Natural gas — which is seen as a transitional energy source between fossil fuels and renewables — provides 44% of this energy, 22% from Groningen, the largest gas field in Europe.
But in 2018 and 2019, gas production in Groningen caused earthquakes that damaged more than 10,000 buildings, leading to a public outcry. The Dutch government decided to shut the Groningen gas field down by 2022.
The government’s aim is to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 49% from 1990 levels by 2030. But at the current rate of progress, a study by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency predicts a reduction of just 34%. It says annual emission reductions would have to double to reach the target, from three to six megatonnes a year.
Offshore wind farms in the North Sea could be key to making this happen.
Why offshore wind?
Not only did the Netherlands install the second largest amount of new offshore wind capacity worldwide in 2020, it also came fourth worldwide for cumulative offshore wind installations.
The Netherlands’ current offshore wind capacity is about 2.5GW, projected to reach 11GW by 2030. At today’s rates of consumption, that would supply 8.5% of the country’s energy and 40% of its electricity.
Favourable winds, shallow waters, and easy access to ports and energy-intensive industries combine to make the North Sea a prime location for offshore wind, and development costs have fallen significantly, opening up economic opportunities for energy companies. Dutch companies already control about 25% of the European offshore wind market.
Six offshore wind projects with a total value of £14bn are planned for the next five years.
Dutch offshore wind farms at a glance
Existing wind farms
- Gemini (600 MW)
- Luchterduinen (129 MW)
- Prinses Amalia (120 MW)
- Egmond aan Zee (108 MW)
Future wind farms
- Ijmuiden Ver (4GW)
- Borssele (1400 MW)
- Hollandse Kust West (1400 MW)
- Hollandse Kust Zuid (South) III & IV (770 MW)
- Hollandse Kust Noord (North) (759 MW)
- Ten noorden van de Waddeneilanden (700 MW)