Dutch greenhouse gas emissions result fuels debate over coal closures

04 September 2017 15:54 Source:ICIS

Greenhouse gas emissions in the Netherlands rose in 2016 despite a fall in the share of coal-fired power production in the electricity mix, according to preliminary data released on Monday by national statistics office CBS.

The news is certain to spark further debate over the potential closure of five remaining coal-fired power plants in the Netherlands. Economy minister Henk Kamp recently suggested a plant could close if not enough progress was made in meeting the country’s greenhouse gas reduction target.

The Dutch target, set out in the Urgenda ruling in 2015, is a 25% cut in emissions by 2020 compared to 1990 levels. But CBS data showed that in 2016 the Netherlands was just 11% below 1990 levels, with emissions having actually increased by 1% year on year to 197bn kg CO2 equivalent.

Coal vs. gas

This came despite the share of coal in 2016 electricity production having fallen for the first time since 2010, reaching 32%, due to the closure of three old coal-fired plants.

In contrast, the share of gas climbed to 46% in part to plug the coal gap, its first increase since 2013.

Although substitution of coal with gas led to lower CO2 emissions, this was largely offset by extra natural gas consumption in electricity production that was needed to compensate for decreased electricity imports, CBS said.

Increased economic activity in the chemical industry was also partly responsible for the rising greenhouse gas emissions, the organisation added.

Coal closures?

A decision on the future of coal-fired plants in the Netherlands will be taken by the new government, following an election in March 2017. However, coalition negotiations to form a new government are still ongoing.

The conservative-liberal (VVD) party, which won most seats in the recent election, had been opposed to the closure of plants, although economics minister Henk Kamp stated in July that one plant could be shut if the upcoming National Energy Outlook (NEV) shows not enough progress is being made to meet greenhouse gas reduction targets (click here to read story).

Monday’s CBS release provides at the least a hint as to the findings of the NEV report.

Since the previous edition of the NEV report in 2016, it has been announced that the ROAD carbon capture and storage (CCS) project has been cancelled (click here to read story). Since this project was intended to capture 1.1 million tonnes per annum of CO2 from the Maasvlakte 3 coal-fired plant from 2019, the cancellation of the project will have an impact on NEV’s outlook for greenhouse gas emissions in 2020.

Any coal plant closures could be bullish for power prices as more expensive gas-fired plants would be required to produce baseload electricity. matthew.jones@icis.com

By Matthew Jones