The energy transition: it will not escape anyone’s attention that there needs to be a change in the way we meet our energy needs. We are moving towards renewable forms of energy. Not only in the Netherlands but worldwide. The idea that we will ‘get rid of gas’ is true but it will not happen very quickly. Indeed, natural gas will continue to play a role in our energy mix for quite some time. To make sure we do not run out of energy if there is not enough renewable energy. And as a precursor to green gas or hydrogen. If we still need gas for a while, it is more sustainable and cheaper to use Dutch gas than gas coming from far away. How about that?
When thinking of energy transition, most people think of solar panels and wind energy. These are mainly used to generate electricity. But electricity is only 15 per cent of all the energy we consume in a year. Heat demand is by far the largest at 42 per cent and comes from households but mainly from industry. Natural gas currently mainly meets this heat demand. In addition, natural gas is also used in power plants as a fuel for generating electricity. Fat chance that the electricity coming out of your wall socket at home (if it is not sustainably generated) is made with natural gas.
Natural gas currently provides 44 per cent of our primary energy consumption. This is only steadily decreasing in the future: the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency predicts that natural gas will still provide around 34 per cent of our energy consumption in 2030. This is because natural gas cannot be replaced in the short term by energy from solar, wind, geothermal, hydrogen or biomass. There is simply not enough renewable energy to meet the need.
So, we still need natural gas for the time being. With the closing of the Groningen gas production, an important source of supply will disappear. That leaves two options: we use the gas that is still elsewhere available in the Netherlands (both onshore as well as offshore). Or we import gas from other regions, such as shale gas (LNG) from North America or gas from, for example, Norway.
Producing gas in the Netherlands has several important advantages over importing gas: it generates gas revenues for society and contributes to employment in our country. The existing gas infrastructure will eventually offer opportunities for the transport of green gas or hydrogen. Dutch natural gas also has a 30% lower CO₂-footprint than gas from abroad because less polluting techniques are used during production and we no longer need to transport the gas over long distances. We are also less dependent on foreign countries for gas supplies.
Natural gas will remain necessary in our energy supply in the coming decades. Gas production from Dutch fields is necessary not only because of reduced dependence on foreign countries or income for the State, but precisely because it is more sustainable than importing gas from abroad.
More information on the role of Dutch natural gas in the energy transition can be found here
Unless otherwise stated, the figures in this piece are taken from Energie in Cijfers 2021, a publication of EBN.