Over the next few years, all homes and buildings in the Netherlands, more than seven million, must be made more sustainable; a huge task. Gas will inevitably take on a lesser role but we cannot dispense with it, even in a climate-neutral future.
Carrying out sustainability measures can vary according to house, district or region. New buildings are already energy-efficient and may even be zero-energy homes. Sustainable electricity, residual heat and geothermal energy will meet the remaining demand. New housing developments will therefore no longer need to be connected to the gas network; of course, GasTerra is also in favour of gas connections in new buildings no longer being required.
Existing houses pose more of a challenge. We can gain a lot from better insulation and also, to some extent, from electrification with green energy and heat networks. But gas will also continue to play a part here, through the installation of hybrid heat pumps, for example, which provide heat even during cold periods when the power network cannot cope with the extra demand for energy. We should only use natural gas for applications which create the most value and in places where no sustainable alternatives are available – this is what we call 'Gas-by-Design’.
Hybrid heat pump
Using hybrid heat pumps offers a solution for applying sustainable measures to existing houses, which are generally associated with high energy demands. Electricity and gas work cleverly together in hybrid heat pumps. An electric heat pump (including air-source types) provides most of the heat needed, and a connected or integrated small high-performance boiler cuts in at times of peak consumption on cold winter days. This technology requires half to three-quarters less gas and optimal use is made of electricity, removing the need for expensive grid reinforcement. Renewable gas can, moreover, play a role in 'greening' the remaining, much lower, gas demand. Total emissions reductions are therefore possible without making homes undergo radical adaptation.
A promising start has already been made in the municipality of Winsum: in the context of 'green acceleration', more than 100 homes owned by the 'Wierden en Borgen' housing corporation are being fitted with a hybrid heat pump combined with green gas. The homes will be more energy-efficient and the gas supply is green and free from natural gas!
Gas remains important
Hence the part played by gas will become smaller but, by finding smart ways to handle the existing gas network, gas can continue to play an important role as an energy carrier in the built environment also in a climate-neutral future.