The political environment in the Netherlands for launching Fuel Cell micro-Cogeneration is a mixed story of significant political challenges but also some opportunities. The Netherlands is ambitiously pushing for decarbonisation (49% greenhouse gas emission reductions by 2023), as the future role of natural gas in the energy mix is being challenged. The Fuel Cell micro-Cogeneration industry is contributing to the debate, showcasing the proven benefits of the technology against the public perception smokescreen. Given these conditions, the main objectives in the Netherlands are to raise awareness of Fuel Cell micro-Cogeneration in the industry and among politicians and to push for a subsidy either under the current Investment Subsidy for Sustainable Energy (ISDE) or a newly created subsidy, specifically for Fuel Cell micro-Cogeneration. As of today, some units have already been installed in the Netherlands, including 33 under the EU-funded project ene.field and 88 BlueGen (SOLIDpower) units.
The main political challenge in the Netherlands is the negative perception towards gas. Natural gas reduction is frequently mentioned in the context of ‘getting rid of the gas grid’, rather than in relation to connecting new developments to the gas grid. This not only makes it more difficult to sell Fuel Cell micro-Cogeneration to the industry and to the end user; it also means politicians are less likely to support the technology. Currently, all existing subsidies and funds are only available for renewable solutions and projects that are considered to be 100% renewable such as solar and wind. This even excludes Fuel Cell micro-Cogeneration units running on green gas from the grid (with a certificate). The current ISDE subsidy is also only for technologies that are 100% renewable.
The primary opportunity for Fuel Cell micro-Cogeneration is the Dutch government’s extremely ambitious decarbonisation target of 49% by 2023. Today, plans only exist to reach about half of the targets, so politicians are seeking any opportunity to attain the remaining decarbonisation required. Fuel Cell micro-Cogeneration could help fill the gap. The focus in the Netherlands therefore needs to be on promoting all decarbonisation solutions at the lowest cost for the community and for the wider energy system, instead of just focusing on 100% renewables. This can be through the ISDE subsidy, the Stimulating Sustainable Energy (SDE+) subsidy, or creating a new dedicated subsidy scheme for Fuel Cell micro-Cogeneration. Long term climate and energy policy in the Netherlands should therefore account for all energy solutions that will deliver decarbonisation across different energy grids (electricity, heat but also gas networks), taking into account the full investment and operating costs of electrification and energy storage, as well as the decarbonisation and grid stability benefits of technologies like micro-CHP.