D66 leader and Dutch minister of Climate and Energy Rob Jetten campaigning on 'new energy' in the elections of november 2023. EPA-EFE/RAMON VAN FLYMEN


Dutch province of Utrecht returns to fossil fuel as power-grid faces meltdown


The Dutch province of Utrecht announced it will switch back to fossil fuel to relieve the overworked electricity grid, as the road to net-zero in the Netherlands hits some major obstacles.

The outgoing Dutch Climate Minister Rob Jetten, leader of the Democrats 66 (D66) party, along with local grid operators, announced a set of measures to fight the power-grid overload in Utrecht province. It is expected to be the first of many regions in the country that will have to take action to avoid future problems.

To maintain electricity provision to the public and businesses in Utrecht, there will be a switch back to gas. At moments of peak demand, the local Government will deploy gas generators.

Smart charging stations will be switched off during peak times but the regional authorities and grid operators are working on an exemption option for owners of electric vehicles to top-up their batteries if they need to.

Instead of fully-electric heat-pumps, hybrid heat-pumps are being promoted. These hybrid models can be connected to boiler-heating systems and are less demanding on the electricity grid.

The Dutch public service broadcaster nos reported that the projected shortage equals the needs of 125,000 homes in Utrecht.

Huib van Essen of the Utrecht Provincial Executive said the measures would “have a significant impact on reducing the overload on the power grid”, adding that the use of gas-plants was “unfortunately necessary” for this.

Without implementing appropriate measures, the province is forecast to experience frequent electricity blackouts, which would jeopardise the construction of new housing and industrial complexes, nos said.

Utrecht is the first province to opt to return to fossil fuels but other areas and provinces, in particular Flevopolder and Gelderland, are also said to be working on similar measures.

Without nationwide measures being implemented, nos reported that approximately 1.5 million people in the Netherlands could be subject to power outages until 2030.

Other issues would include the malfunction of electrical devices and lighting.

The problems for households and small consumers come on top of long-standing issues for the Dutch industrial sector, which is consuming electricity at much higher rates than previously.

Waiting times for new or upgraded connections, necessary for businesses to enhance their sustainability efforts, are also on the rise.

The shift back to fossil fuels in the Netherlands follows a decision by the Scottish Government to abandon its flagship target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 75 per cent by 2030.

It said it had an “unwavering commitment” to achieve net zero by 2045 but on April 18 called the targets for 2030 “out of reach”.

Scotland’s leadership was one of the first in the world to declare a “climate emergency”, in 2019.