No affordable sustainable energy supply without green gas

18-10-2016

All European member states will have to generate part of their energy supply sustainably in 2020. The target for the Netherlands has been set at 14%. We will have to pull out all the stops, because in 2015 we only managed to achieve 5.8%. The main emphasis is on sustainable electricity, and green gas does not seem to have a part to play. Is this justified, or should green gas actually make an important contribution? For Roland van der Laan and Gert-Jan Klaren, experts in green gas at GasTerra, this is not even a question. Without green gas, it is simply not possible.

In the Netherlands, we are focusing on all-electric technologies such as solar panels and electric heat pumps in our attempt to make the energy balance in towns greener. However, the initial investment costs to actually be able to meet peak demand for heat in winter, particularly in heat pumps and the electricity network, are very high. A cheaper - sustainable - alternative is a hybrid heat pump, where the heat is provided by the heat pump for most of the year and by a boiler in the colder months. If the power is generated from green gas, a household will actually be using sustainable heat throughout the year. The costs of a hybrid heat pump combined with a gas connection are much lower than the all-electric option. In the case of existing buildings, the gas connection is already present, meaning that the costs here are still lower.

One of the main issues in towns is the cost aspect, but there are major technical obstacles to making heat demand in industry more sustainable, in particular the need for high temperatures which cannot be achieved by an electric heat pump. The only real option is and will be the burning of fossil fuel or biomass. Green gas has the same properties as natural gas and is ideal as a sustainable alternative to natural gas.

Roland van der Laan en Gert-Jan Klaren
Roland van der Laan and Gert-Jan Klaren

But can we produce enough green gas to play these roles? The current green gas production stands at around 100 million m3 a year[1], though we can produce a few billion m3 a year from Dutch sources (garden waste, manure etc.). If we want to achieve this goal, we must concentrate on the use of the biomass streams and related logistics. Manure and seaweed are the most promising biomass streams, while woody biomass has considerable potential if gasification technology can be applied on a large scale.

The current supply of green gas does not seem to be sufficient to make the demand for heat by industry completely sustainable, but it can be a step in the right direction. However, it does seem to have sufficient potential to make urban demand affordably more sustainable in combination with a hybrid heat pump. This means that the role of green gas in an affordable sustainable energy supply speaks for itself. It would be great if policy makers also start to see it this way, and shift their focus from all-electric solutions to more inclusive approaches, which are better for the environment and cheaper at the same time. In that respect, the recent decision by Stef Blok, the Minister for Housing and the Central Government Sector, to also offer an energy performance compensation for houses with a gas connection, is a step in the right direction. 

 

Authors: Roland van der Laan en Gert-Jan Klaren (Account managers green gas)


[1] Source: groengas.nl