The Dutch government is funding an ambitious programme on green heating solutions, but its subsidies for homeowners fall far short, critics say.
The Dutch government is trying to get rid of natural gas heating by subsidising better insulation and green fuels, with a total budget of 90 million euros.
Both private owners and companies can receive a subsidy for installing more environmentally friendly heating systems, such as heat pumps, sun boilers, biomass cattle and pallet stoves.
Heat pumps are the most popular solution. However, the subsidies cover only the cost of the machine, not the installation and the floor heating system, necessary for a heat pump to work efficiently.
“If you want to invest in a heat pump, you still have to invest a lot yourself,” Jörg Gigler, director of TKI Gas, told The Scoop. TKI Gas is a national gas knowledge and innovation platform set up by the government.
The cost of installing a heat pump can reach 20,000 euros. The subsidy varies depending on the size of the house, with a maximum of 2,500 euros available.
Home-owners are deterred by the high initial investment, according to Gigler. “If you have to finance 5,000 euros yourself, it can take 10 years to earn it back. A lot of people would not make [such] an investment,” he said.
At the end of 2016 the Dutch government presented an ‘Energy Agenda’ aiming for a carbon-neutral economy by 2050. In order to achieve this, 200,000 homes would have to change their gas heating systems per year. At the moment only 1,000 houses are renewed each year, according to Gigler.
The use of natural gas actually increased last year by four percent, compared to 2015, according to Statistics Netherlands. Gas accounted for 46% of the total electricity use in The Netherlands in 2016.
“I think it is an obligation for politicians and the government to help people buy good systems for the future. Now rich people will have the good systems and poor people will not. We have to work on that,” Arjen Nolles, the chairman of the Groningen green party GroenLinks, said.