Despite the very good level of awareness of market players and customers on micro-Cogeneration, and even though micro-Cogeneration is included in the national energy transition programme, previously existing support schemes for this technology have now been removed – although they were to be considered favourable, the Dutch industry was not yet at the right stage to take advantage of them.
The Netherlands is currently undergoing a phase of ‘gas out’ – and new buildings are not even allowed to have a connection to the gas grid. This attitude is clearly favouring a full electrification of the economy, which nevertheless does not take into account some relevant considerations.
- The use of electricity for heating and transport will still result in significant CO2 emissions, while increasing costs for grid operators in the short and medium term. Electricity storage is yet to cost-effectively cover for the residual load (defined as the difference between the electricity demand and renewable feed-in) during the times where the sun is not shining or the wind is not blowing. Moreover, seasonal variations in residual loads can be quite difficult to manage without significant grid reinforcements.
- The cost-effective alternative to the all-electrification scenario consists of employing a technology mix that uses existing infrastructure and minimises the need for new electricity infrastructure, while maximising decarbonisation gains. Making use of flexible and highly efficient energy solutions, while using existing gas pipeline network, will already today reduce energy use and achieve significant CO2 emission reductions, compared to electricity based solutions.
The gas grid will also have an important storage capacity x-y times higher than the electricity grid at peak demand time.
In addition, as the fuel delivered by the gas grid becomes renewable (e.g. biogas, hydrogen), decarbonisation gains will become even more substantial.
- Grid operators should be given adequate tools to exploit the cost advantages of renewable cogeneration for infrastructure support: DSOs, which have shown a good interest in micro-Cogeneration, should be thus empowered, since legislation currently prevents them from participating in the market.
- Additionally, cooperation among the available sustainable paths (i.e. solar, wind, renewable gas, cogeneration, heat pumps) should be increased to guide the energy transition in the Netherlands.
- With the increasing role of renewable gas applications in the Netherlands, support is needed for the deployment of new technologies. The sustainable contribution of these technologies should also be fully incorporated in calculation methods such as Energy Performance contracting (EPCs)
- Dutch houses are normally quite narrow and have very limited space to install a fuel cell. To overcome this issue, a solution might be provided by the set-up of energy co-operatives that invest in only one unit installed for several homes.
With more than 80% of Dutch houses using in-house gas boilers, the Netherlands is deemed to be among the markets in Europe where Fuel Cell micro-Cogeneration products have the highest market potential for the near future. Therefore, the country should not miss the opportunity of reaping the benefits from the large-scale deployment of these products.