Report: Dutch cities largely use coal power and not sustainable energy

Zwolle IJsselcentrale
Zwolle IJsselcentrale, a coal-powered electricity plant. April 2006OnderwijsgekWikimedia CommonsCC-BY-SA

Large Dutch cities advocate for sustainability and promises to use more sustainable power, in practice they still largely opt for cheaper coal power, according to a survey done by Dutch newspaper AD.

Many of the Netherlands' cities will be using power generated with coal plants from providers E.ON and GDF Suez in the coming years, according to the newspaper.

These two companies will be providing power to Rotterdam, Tilburg, Zwolle and Den Bosch. The provinces of Utrecht and Overijssel also opted for this power. Last month Delft decided to get its electricity from GDF Suez, along with Zoetermeer, Leidschendam-Voorburg and Wassenaar. The Hague is using GDF and Amsterdam will be using E.ON for the next three years. A Leiden alderman recently got rid of the large Christmas trees in the city center because they were not sustainable, but the city and the rest of the Leiden region will rely on E.ON for their energy supply.

Legally, the cities are not in the wrong by choosing this so-called gray-power. Energy suppliers are greening their power by purchasing certificates for renewable electricity, such as from hydroelectric power stations in Norway. Based on such certificates, Delft states that the electricity the municipality is buying from GDF is entirely generated by wind farms.

The local governments' choices in energy providers is leading to frustration in other energy companies, who are focusing more on renewable energy, according to the newspaper. Eneco for one decided to no longer participate for local procurement. "The problem is that sustainability and procurement almost always lie with different aldermen", a spokesperson said to the AD. "The one is judged on cost reduction, the other on greening. As a result, the public sector is lagging behind when it comes to making the energy supply more sustainable." Small supplier Pure Energie is also no longer participating in the tender. "Governments claim to want sustainability, but in practice the lowest price is the guideline. We can not compete against that."

In October consumers organization Consumentenbond and a number of other organizations revealed that the Netherlands power supply became dirtier over the past year, instead of greener. Scientists, politicians and a parliamentary majority are calling for the closure of all coal plants.