12 November 2018
The EUKN interviewed Mr Joram Snijders, Senior policy officer, Department of Construction and Energy, Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations on the topic of energy transition in the built environment in the Netherlands.
EUKN: Which are the most challenging issues in the Netherlands regarding energy transition in the built environment?
JS: The energy transition in the built environment is a huge challenge in the Netherlands. Nevertheless the government acknowledges the need to start working towards a more sustainable and energy efficient built environment as soon as possible. I would say there are three main challenges: costs, participation and technology/innovation.
First of all the costs of making our buildings more sustainable are immense. In fact, without significant cost-reduction our climate goals will be almost impossible to reach. That is why we are working together with different stakeholders to reduce costs. For example by improving cooperation and increasing scale and by facilitating innovation.
Public support for the energy transition is essential. In the built environment almost every single building needs to adapted to a new energy infrastructure. All the people living and working in those buildings need to be able to participate and have influence on the process.
As mentioned, innovation and technological improvements are needed to reduce costs. Innovation is also needed to improve efficiency and reduce nuisance.
EUKN: In what way is the Netherlands with its large dependency on natural gas a unique case when it comes to energy transition?
JS: The Netherlands is not the only country to use natural gas for heating of buildings. However, our dependency on natural gas is exceptionally large. This means that almost every building in the country needs to be adapted to a sustainable heating system. Compared to countries that use collective heating infrastructure (such as district heating), you could argue that changing all those individual heating systems in our buildings is especially challenging.
EUKN: What can the Netherlands learn from other European countries related to this topic?
JS: We are just starting the process of making existing buildings more sustainable. So we are keen to learn from other countries in many ways. Other European countries doubtless face the same technological and financial challenges. It is beneficial to share experiences.
EUKN: Can you give us an example of successful energy transition projects in the built environment in the Netherlands and what can other countries learn from this example?
JS: An interesting example for other countries might be our ‘programme for neighbourhoods free of natural gas’. Together with municipalities, energy companies and other stakeholders we are working on reducing the use of natural gas in existing neighbourhoods. As far as I know working with an entire neighbourhood to make it more sustainable and free of natural gas has not been tried in other countries before. We have only just started, but we are more than willing to share our lessons learned.
EUKN: The European Parliament recently agreed to target a 55% CO2 reduction in the EU by 2030 compared to 1990 levels. The Netherlands supports this new target. But what does it mean in practice?
JS: The Netherlands supports this new target because it is needed to reach the goals of the Paris Climate agreement. In practice it will mean that even more work needs to be done to reach our own national goals. That is why the government is currently working on a national climate agreement in which many different actors, from governments to industry, will agree on climate goals and measures for 2030.