Price spike fires up Dutch to exit gas
An unprecedented spike in TTF gas prices has spurred Dutch plans to move households off the fuel as consumers seek alternatives to shield themselves from pricey energy bills .
By Karolin Schaps
As part of its ambition to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 49 % below 1990 levels by 2030 , the Netherlands wants to move 1.5m households and other consumers off natural gas by the end of this decade .
Since 2018 , all new homes built have no natural gas grid connection . The traditionally gas-dependent country , which is home to Europe ’ s largest onshore gas field in Groningen that is being shut down due to earthquake risks , has been struggling to jump-start its first pilot projects to replace households ’ natural gas use in certain districts .
Public support , technical hurdles and regulatory issues have presented obstacles that led public authorities to conclude earlier this year that achieving the 1.5m household target was no longer realistic by 2030 .
However , the drastic increase in TTF gas prices since late September has now given new impetus to the so-called ‘ Programme for Natural Gas- Free Districts ’ ( PAW ), which largely depends on voluntary participation from supportive homeowners .
“ From recent discussions with participating districts … it is clear that the rising gas price has a direct impact on residents . There is more interest in energy saving measures and municipalities are receiving an increasing amount of enquiries ,” a spokeswoman for the Dutch ministry of the interior , tells Montel .
Since its start in 2018 , 50 districts have been selected in phases to trial replacement of natural gas in buildings with other technologies including biogas , hydrogen , district heating or geothermal energy .
The aim is to trial these methods on around 50,000 homes and other buildings like schools , offices or shops in order to set the path to move all Dutch buildings off the gas grid by 2050 .
Residents have to voluntarily sign up to participate in the programme , which is supported by EUR 435m in government funding until 2028 . In the Nieuwolda-Wagenborgen trial area in the north of the Netherlands , for example , around one third of roughly 1,500 households have shown an interest in the programme .
“ I think the high gas price is an extra motivation . We see that people are moving forward with their own energy saving measures and that ’ s increasing at this moment ,” says Johan Duut , PAW project manager for the municipality of Oldambt , which manages the trials in the towns of Nieuwolda and Wagenborgen .
“ Probably there is some panic with people saying ‘ oh I have to do something because the price is so high at the moment ’,” Duut says .
Benchmark gas futures at Europe ’ s main TTF hub in the Netherlands reached a record high in October , above EUR 162 / MWh . The front-month price since retreated to around EUR 88 / MWh but remains more than 500 % above where it was trading a year ago .
This has seen consumer energy costs in the Netherlands climbing 42.7 % in November compared to a year earlier , according to the Dutch statistics bureau . In comparison , eurozone-wide the increase was 27.4 % on average .
“ The gas price rise will be wind in the sails for the programme ,” Duut says . n
Montel Magazine 4 – 2021