The Current Situation and Perspectives on the Use of Biomass in the Generation of Electricity:Netherlands


The Netherlands’ use of renewable energy sources is low in comparison with most other EU member states. As a proportion of total primary energy use, the contribution from renewable sources was around 3.4 % in 2011,11 a total of 1 % more than in 2005. The Dutch cabinet’s targets for 2020 are to enable the achievement of:

• A 30 % reduction in CO2 in 2020 compared with 1990;

• Renewable energy share of 14.5 % in 2020;

• Annual energy saving of 2 % from 2011.

The Dutch NREAP (2010) suggests that the 14.5 % target could be reached by achieving contributions from renewable by three main sectors as follows:

• Around 9 % contribution in heating and cooling sector (share was 2.5 % in 2005);

• A 37 % contribution in the electricity sector (6 % in 2005);

• A 10 % in the transport sector (0.1 % in 2005).

The use of biomass is currently rather limited due to the fact that the Netherlands is a relatively small and densely populated country. The focus, therefore, is on waste and imported biomass. NREAP figures for total biomass use in electricity in 2010 are as follows:

• A 1,214 MW solid biomass installed electrical capacity or 5,103 GWh of generation;

• A 216 MW biogas installed electrical capacity or 872 GWh of generation.

Despite the relatively low penetration of renewable energy, including biomass, the Dutch government is committed to rapid growth of the whole range of renewable energy technologies. Foremost among the technologies is on- and offshore wind and cofiring of biomass (Panoutsou and Uslu 2011). It is expected that the use of biomass in cofiring power plant will reach around 14 % of the coal use by 2020.

In 2012, the total biomass and waste installed capacity in the country reached 1,769 MW (8.68 % increase with respect to 2011). This installed capacity repre- sents 6.25 % of the total electricity capacity installed in the country and 38.51 % of the total renewables capacity installed. According to the biomass and waste installed capacity, the country occupies the place 13 at world level with a share of

2.2 % and the place 7 at regional level with a share of 5.15 %.

The market segment biomass cofiring in coal power plants is expected to show roughly tenfold growth by 2020. However, proposals for a new energy policy in the Netherlands will see biomass cofiring limited as coal-fired power plants across the country are mothballed, according to the country’s Social and Economic Council (SER). The government is due to finalize the details of the new energy policy after the broad outlines of its energy agreement for sustainable growth were agreed among a leading group of stakeholders and the government. But the proposals could deliver a blow to biomass market participants in the country if adopted, with the majority hoping for a new cofiring policy to be announced as subsidies under the old MEP scheme run out. “Provided that a number of condi- tions are satisfied, energy companies will shut down old coal-fired power plants built in the 1980s,” SER said. “This will limit the possibility of generating sustain- able energy by cofiring biomass in these plants.”

There is currently around 200 MW of installed electricity generation capacity accounted for by solid biomass, with the largest share of this being cofiring. The installed capacity is expected to increase to 2,300 MW, if the new energy policy does not promote the closure of old coal power plants. The Netherlands has been a leader over the last decade in developing cofiring of biomass in existing power plants. This experience will help the achievement of the growth of the segment, though the technical challenges will become greater with increasing proportion of biomass combusted. The main influencing factor, however, will be cost of fuel, since global demand for biomass is expected to rise and this may be reflected in increased prices, certainly if sustainability criteria are also applied to solid bio- mass for heat and power sectors (Panoutsou and Uslu 2011).

A major advantage of biomass is that in most applications, it provides energy continuously, as opposed to intermittent sources such as solar and wind. This makes it inherently attractive to those responsible for the integrity and continuous operation of the electricity grid. Notwithstanding, there are four drawbacks with the heavy reliance on biomass in the energy mix. These are the following:

• A high proportion of variable costs make economic lifetime less predictable.

Renewable energy running on biomass has a different financial structure compared to wind and solar energy. With biomass, most of the costs are feedstock related and, therefore, variable, while with wind and solar projects, the bulk of costs are fixed;

• A lot of biomass feedstock will have to be imported. With the Netherlands has the lowest percentage of forest land cover within the EU and a high population density, even the Dutch NREAP estimated that by 2020, a total of 38 % of the required biomass would need to be imported. Compared to solar and wind, this implies a high dependency on other countries and a lower sustainability profile;

• Less likely to become cheaper. As many EU member states are banking on the use of imported biomass to attain their 2020 targets, the prices of suitable feed- stock will be under upward pressure;

• Biomass already represents the vast majority of supply. At the moment, biomass

accounts for 75 % of the total renewable energy share. Developing a mix of energy technologies would diversify supply and increase energy security.

Finally, and according to different sources, the country should invest around €3 billion in order to achieve the goal related to the participation of biomass in the

The Current Situation and Perspectives on the Use of Biomass in the Generation of Electricity-0195

energy mix of the country by 2020. This investment is expected to come from the private sector.

Generation of Electricity Using Biomass and Waste

The evolution of the generation of electricity using biomass and waste in the Netherlands during the period 2008–2012 is shown in Fig. 7.12.

According to Fig. 7.12, the generation of electricity using biomass and waste in the Netherlands during the period 2008–2012 increased 44.6 %. It is expected that the country will continue generating electricity using biomass and waste during the coming years.

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