Energiepodium.nl interviewed Gerard Martinus (project leader energy transition GasTerra) about the recently published government vision on heating.
Recently, Minister Kamp of Economic Affairs published his vision on heating. In the coming years, the cabinet wants to stimulate Dutch home owners and businesses to use less natural gas and more renewable and residual heat to heat their properties. Gas trading company GasTerra is positive about this vision. According to Gerard Martinus, Dutch homes can quickly reduce the amount of extra heating they need. In time, all Dutch homes can be heated sustainably, by deploying large-scale insulation, geothermal technology and green gas, he says.
What is your reaction to this vision on heating?
‘I am glad that the Minister has published this document and that it pays attention to heating. It’s a good step forward. In the past, electricity got most of the attention, and it seemed as if no-one took any notice of heating. It might sound strange that I’m so positive, because GasTerra earns its money from selling natural gas. But GasTerra’s mission is to add as much value as possible to Dutch gas. Commercially of course, but also by promoting that energy from gas is used in the best possible way. That is not the same as selling as much gas as possible.’
‘With regard to industry, we have had programs for the efficient use of natural gas for decades. And we are also active in that field where it comes to home owners. Gasunie, the company GasTerra split from in 2005, was largely responsible for the introduction of the High Efficiency Boiler. Other countries are about ten years behind on the Netherlands.’
Still, Dutch gas production has risen quickly in the years up to 2014. How do you explain that?
‘Indeed, gas extraction in Groningen has increased, with a peak of 54 billion cubic meters per year. In 2014, Minister Kamp enforced a production maximum, because of the earthquakes. There are a number of explanations for the rise in extraction until 2013. In that year, we were first faced with a long cold winter. Because less gas was produced at the smaller fields, we were forced to extract more gas from the field in Groningen, and the effects were still visible in 2013.’
What is your view on the large-scale deployment of heat nets?
‘It is important to differentiate between residual heat, excess heat from industry and geothermal heat: heat from water and steam deep inside the earth. Residual heat is not permanent, geothermal heat is. A heat net is a centrally regulated service. It could potentially interfere with decentralized and sustainable forms of energy. It would not be good if we’d start heating houses with heat from centrally generated power, especially if this all comes from coal. The current zeitgeist is to move towards decentralized heating, from sustainable sources. Some mistakes have been made in Germany. A number of fossil fuel plants had to remain open, only to supply residential areas with heating. We have to prevent that from happening. GasTerra’s mission is to add as much value as possible to Dutch gas.'
What are your ideas about using natural gas as a source of energy?
‘Natural gas can help if there is a peak demand for electricity and as back-up for sustainable energy, both centralized and decentralized. Locally, gas can also support forms of sustainable energy, such as High Efficiency Boilers, efficient Central Heating Boilers which also supply energy.’
In his vision on heating, Minister Kamp asks how the built-up area can be supplied with heating: via heat nets, an intricate gas network, or by simply strengthening the power grid. What factors should be taken into account, in your opinion?
‘When a new residential area is build, good insulation is a prerequisite. Building passive homes, which get most of their heating from sources such as the sun, the residents and devices, should become the norm. But as I noticed when I built my own house, this is quite difficult to achieve. For example, my plot does not get a lot of direct sunlight. It can also happen that the town aesthetics committee does not approve plans to change a house. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who encounter these types of problems. But still: Insulation is priority number one. Then you have to look at whether there are real sustainable heat options, such as geothermal or solar-thermal heat. If there are, these should get priority. Peaks in demand can be addressed by sustainable electricity or gas. Green gas can be a sustainable solution.’
How many Dutch homes can be heated with green gas?
‘GasTerra thinks that in 2030 we can produce around 3 billion cubic meters of green gas in the Netherlands. The question is: how much gas is needed for homes? The current heating demand for homes is around 11 billion cubic meters of gas. It is also important to know that this is around half the figure of 20 years ago. If we continue to insulate more houses in the coming years, we can reduce the demand for heating to 6 billion cubic meters. With advanced measures – such as urban renewal projects – in time, the demand could even be reduced to 3 billion cubic meters of gas. Of course, more and more residential areas will be heated using geothermal heat. So yes, a completely sustainable heating supply, using geothermal heat and green gas, is possible.’
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