Warmly recommended

Towards a low-CO2 heat supply in the built environment

Background and request for advice

Agreements were made at the climate summit in Paris in 2015 designed to prevent an excessive rise in the earth’s average temperature as a result of the greenhouse effect. In the present government’s coalition agreement this objective was translated into the target of reducing emissions of greenhouse gases by 95% in the period up to 2050 compared with 1990. An interim target of a reduction of 49% was fixed for 2030.

Meeting these targets calls for a transition in our energy supply, in every sector. In one of those sectors, the built environment, the energy supply should switch to low-CO2 heat and cold in homes and other buildings. Only limited progress has been made with the transition in the built environment up to now, especially in light of the challenge. The Council focuses in this advisory report on the following questions:

What measures should the government take to ensure that everyone concerned is able and willing to work towards a rapid transition to a low-CO2 heat supply in the built environment?

What financial measures and what agreements on the role and responsibilities of the public authorities are needed to achieve the objectives defined in the coalition agreement for 2030 and 2050?

children playing in the snow
Werry Crone / Hollandse Hoogte

Explanation and principles

To achieve the Netherlands’ climate targets, the carbon footprint of 200,000 homes will have to be reduced every year up until 2050. That represents almost 800 dwellings every working day for 30 years. In the coming decades, practically every household and every owner of a building will be affected by this operation. The effort and commitment of the public cannot be taken for granted in this process.

The Council observes that two fundamental conditions have to be met to persuade individuals and society as a whole to take the necessary action: clarity and connection with other issues. Greater clarity is needed regarding the division of responsibilities, the size and allocation of the costs and the timetable for the transition. Furthermore, the transition will only succeed if there is more effective communication with society. The prospect of a successful energy transition is only feasible if other issues of concern to a district and to the relevant households can be linked to its implementation.

The Council has found that there are three basic principles that require a political and administrative debate and on which explicit choices could accelerate the transition. They are freedom of choice, division of public and private responsibilities and increased momentum in the initial phase of the transition.

Recommendations

On the basis of clarity and connection with other issues as fundamental preconditions and the three basic principles, the Council makes recommendations for the timetable and the costs and affordability of the transition and for generating public support at the local level.

To provide the clarity that society demands about the course of the energy transition, a consensus on the timetable is essential. The Council makes recommendations for further refining the timetable. In the first stage of the process, for example, in addition to extra government funding, a strategy should be formulated for municipal governance of new infrastructure. Furthermore, energy saving should be a major priority during the first stage of the transition, and by 2040 every government building should be carbon-neutral.

In the Council’s opinion, the construction of heat infrastructure in the public space is a public responsibility. The Council recommends that everyone in a supply area should help pay for the construction of this facility, even individuals who choose an alternative heat supply. At the same time, the costs of heat can vary from one neighbourhood, municipality or region to another. The Council advocates fixing a maximum statutory price for heating, which will require the establishment of a system of regulating costs that embraces the entire spectrum of heat supply (different temperatures, all-electric, hydrogen and biogas).

The energy transition is not a priority for everyone, particularly if they are confronted with other urgent issues such as a risk of flooding or concerns about safety and quality of life. The Council therefore recommends that the plans for the transition should closely match the dynamic in a district and that municipalities should be obliged to include that aspect in their local Transition Visions for Heat and Heat Plans.

Publication

The advisory report ‘Warmly recommended: Towards a low-CO2 heat supply in the built environment’ was presented to Minister of the Interior and Kingdom Relations Kajsa Ollongren and Minister of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy Eric Wiebes on 13 December 2018.

Information or reaction

For more information about the advisory report, please contact the project manager Folmer de Haan by email at f.w.dehaan@rli.nl or by telephone at +31(0)6 461 524 96.