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Dutch geothermal sector to pick up with clear regulations and experience

Amsterdam, The Netherlands (source: flickr/ ChrisYunker, creative commons)
Alexander Richter Alexander Richter 12 Dec 2017

With a professionalisation of the sector and clearer regulatory framework set by the government, geothermal energy development is at a breaking point in the Netherlands. There is interest now in more and larger-scale development of geothermal heating projects.

A recent radio piece from the Netherlands, discusses the great potential and outlook for geothermal energy, but also raises concerns raised by the public and the government, that we reported on previously.

Currently there are 15 geothermal installations in the Netherlands, but if it is up to the government and the business community, there could and should be so much more. The reason for this is simple, geothermal energy could fuel as much as 30 percent of the Dutch heat demand.

It is sustainable, virtually inexhaustible, and has no CO2 emissions. It therefore fits into the goal of making all homes in the Netherlands natural gas-free in 2050. But the regulator, the State Supervision of Mines, actually is concerned about technical and safety issues.

The first geothermal heat project for residential areas was to be built under the Groningen district of Selwerd. Concerns were raised about the security on old natural gas layers and the risks of seismic events.

Local resident Maarten: “At first we were enthusiastic, because every Groninger wants to get rid of the gas. Until you start wondering to what extent such drilling will cause cracks. “After years of preparation, the municipality of Groningen pulled the plug out of the project last month.

Gerard Crouwels: “The city council was misled by experts in the project. If I had been a councilor, I would have been very critical of that. “Council member Jimmy Dijk of the SP is critical:” The alderman had pink glasses on, or better green glasses. Tenants were critical of this project. And that is a shame because the failure of it causes a lot of mistrust of geothermal energy. ”

The State Supervision of Mines was also critical: Paul Trienekens and Wouter van der Zee said that there was insufficient expertise in the Groninger team. “We think the chances of success of this project are 12%.” Jimmy Dijk: “When I tell my wife that I will stay with her for 12%, I will be out of the house soon.”

Some see the situation in Groning as symptomatic for the geothermal sector in the Netherlands. In its report on the “State of the Sector” formulated a list of challenges: environmental and safety risks are not sufficiently recognized, laws and regulations are not properly complied with, operators use inferior and cheap materials, there are always new operators on the market, so that no experience is built up.

But there have also been immediate critical voices from the industry.

Frank van der Schoof, chairman of the Geothermal Energy Platform, sees this differently. “There is no lack of expertise, he believes. “I agree that things should improve, but they are working hard on all kinds of improvement programs. We have to move from the pioneering phase to the adult phase. Yes, the sector must professionalize. But I want to add that so far no major incident has occurred. But not only the sector itself is to blame, the Ministry of Economic Affairs is still pioneering, says the State Supervision.

Wouter van der Zee: “The standards that installations have to meet are not well defined, because they have not yet been approved by the minister. So we do not really know what to test. That is a difficult situation for us. ”

Paul Trienekes: “But we are now at a breaking point, now that the municipality and provinces are rolling out larger-scale projects. We can not continue to do this in this way. ”

The Hague proves that things must and can be done differently. In 2008, The Hague should have had the first of the first district of the Netherlands, heated by geothermal heating. But the financial crisis threw a spanner in the works, says Jan-Willem Rösingh of Perpetuum Energy Partners about the geothermal energy plant on the Leyweg. In 2013, it eventually went bankrupt. 600 of the 4,000 targeted houses were built.

But now the tide seems to be turning. The economy is picking up again and The Hague is making a new attempt: the pipes are intact and cleaned, the pump house is functioning again, and Joris Weismuller (HSP) is looking forward to it: “We have organized it better now. I understand the warning of State Supervision and therefore we have attracted parties with a lot of experience. We want to get rid of the gas in 2014, and we’re on top of a hot water bubble in The Hague. We ultimately want to realize 12 geothermal projects in The Hague. ”

Oma Ank (82) of the residents’ organization Leyenburg has been involved in the project for ten years from the consultation group and remembers the inconvenience. “The provision of information to the residents is extremely important. I would be wise if they contacted the old consultation group again. “At the same time, she is very committed to the project. “We have to get rid of the gas and I am an optimist. I think it will be fantastic. ”

Source: NPO Radio