The Dutch parliament’s vote in favor of a motion to cut carbon emissions 55% by 2030 could spell the end of coal-fired power generation in the European nation.
Although nonbinding, the measure would bring the Netherlands in line with agreements negotiated during the Paris climate talks that took place late last year.
What it means for the Dutch power generation industry is that all coal-fired power plants would likely be forced out of service, even recently commissioned, highly efficient units. The Guardian, a UK-based news service, reported that the Netherlands closed five coal power plants last year, but it still has five coal-fired units in operation, three of which entered service in 2015.
Vattenfall, one of Europe’s largest power generators, issued a news release late last year explaining that a Hague district court ordered the Dutch government to take more action in June 2015 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. That binding ruling forces the government to ensure that carbon dioxide emissions are at least 25% less than 1990 levels by 2020.
Urgenda, a Dutch foundation focused on transitioning the nation to an economy based only on renewable energy, was one of the plaintiffs in the court case. It noted in a press release: “This is the first time that a judge has legally required a State to take precautions against climate change.”
Stijn van den Heuvel, head of public and regulatory affairs and media relations for Nuon—the Amsterdam-based part of Vattenfall—compared the Dutch situation to the British government’s decision to close all of its coal plants by 2025.
“The British situation is somewhat different. Their coal power plants are old; the Netherlands has three new ones. It is now up to the Dutch politicians to decide on what compensation power plant owners will get when they would agree to phase-out their plants,” van den Heuvel said in the news release. “Even so, it is fair to say that by 2030 there will be no future for coal in the Netherlands.”
Stientje van Veldhoven, a Dutch Liberal member of parliament and vice president of the parliament, was quoted in The Guardian as saying, “Closing down big coal plants – even if they were recently opened – is by far the most cost effective way to achieve the goals of the Paris agreement, and all countries will need to take such far-reaching measures. We cannot continue to use coal as the cheapest source of energy when it is the most expensive from a climate perspective.”
—Aaron Larson, associate editor (@AaronL_Power, @POWERmagazine)