The Netherlands could reach between 38 GW and 125 GW of total installed solar capacity by 2050, according to a new report by Netbeheer Nederland, the Dutch association of national-regional electricity and gas network operators.
Integral Infrastructure Outlook 2030-2050, a study produced by Dutch consultancies Berenschot and Kalavasta, outlines four growth scenarios for a climate-neutral energy supply by 2050, based on four different policy outcomes. One sees development being driven by the country’s regional governments and municipalities (regional scenario), while another envisages growth facilitated by the national government (national scenario). A third scenario involves an energy system that would be shaped by EU policies (European scenario), while a fourth one sees the country's energy transition being determined by international market forces.
The experts said that the share of solar in all of the scenarios would be larger than what they predicted in their Netbeheer Nederland in 2017 report, due to the ongoing decline of solar panel prices, as well as the expected improvement of PV technologies in terms of energy yield.
Surprisingly, the regional scenario forecasts the largest expansion of PV, up to an astonishing 125 GW of installed capacity. This scenario is characterized by a high level of energy system electrification and a decline in industrial activity, with the country becoming self-sufficient in terms of power supply. Gas would still have a role as backup supply, or in the form of green gas from local biomass and green hydrogen from wind and solar generation. Wind is expected to reach 63 GW, while backup power would expand up to 42 GW. Total demand is set to reach roughly 690 PJ and hydrogen final consumption would go to 121 PJ under this scenario.
In Netbeheer Nederland's 2017 report, solar was predicted to rise a share of 84 GW and wind to 42 GW, with total demand coming in slightly lower at 573 PJ, and hydrogen final consumption reaching 280 PJ.
Under this scenario, the central government would take the lead in the energy transition, with utility-scale renewables to account for a larger share than distributed generation. Wind is expected to reach a total installed capacity of 92 GW, while solar would hit 106 GW, with backup power ranging between 39 GW and 45 GW. Total demand would top 763 PJ, with hydrogen consumption hitting 266 PJ.
In the scenario presented three years earlier, solar was only expected to reach 38 GW, with wind rising to 67 GW. Total demand under that outlook was set to reach 528 PJ, with hydrogen final consumption rising to 456 PJ.
This scenario involves the theoretical introduction of a CO2 tax at the EU level. “This CO2 tax increases progressively towards 2050, making CO2-emitting products and processes increasingly unattractive and eventually disappearing,” the researchers said.
The Netherlands is expected to remain an importer of energy under this outlook, with a preference for clean energy of European origin. “In the early years, when the CO2 tax is still low, transport based on fossil fuels will still be used significantly,” the researchers wrote. However, as this tax goes up, electric and hydrogen transport will become more attractive and take over this market.
Solar deployment is expected to reach 42 GW and wind 52 GW, with backup capacity ranging from 45 GW to 53 GW. Total demand is expected to be much higher than in the regional and national scenarios at 863 PJ, as industry is set to grow steadily until 2050, with hydrogen consumption expected to come in at 421 PJ.
This scenario assumes a completely open international market, with a strong climate policy at the global level. The Netherlands would not be self-sufficient and would continue to depend on imports.
“Renewable energy is generated on a large scale at strategic locations worldwide,” the experts wrote. “This means Netherland will mainly implement off-shore wind, because this can compete internationally on price because of the favorable conditions in the North Sea.”
As a result, wind would have a share of 48 GW, while solar capacity would only reach 38 GW. Total demand is estimated to hit 842 PJ and hydrogen final consumption would reach 518 PJ.
The authors of the report said that a combination of these scenarios could also be in the cards. “How the path towards a climate-neutral society will progress and what our energy system we will have in 2050 will depends on social considerations and political choices,” they wrote.
According to the latest statistics from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the Netherlands' cumulative installed PV capacity stood at 6.72 GW at the end of 2019. In a report released in November, the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL) predicted that the country could rise to 36 GW of installed solar power by 2030.
In October 2017, Energieonderzoek Centrum Nederland (ECN) issued a forecast in which the nation's total installed PV capacity would grow to 20 GW by 2035.
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