No Dutch subsidies for coal plants; Could threaten biomass use

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On Tuesday the Tweede Kamer, lower house of Dutch parliament, voted that Minister Henk Kamp of Economic Affairs should give no subsidies to coal-fired power plants for co-firing biomass until it is clear whether the plants must be closed due to pollution. Engergie-Nederland, the umbrella organization for energy companies in the country, thinks that the Energy Agreement will be jeopardized if coal plants do not co-fire biomass, broadcaster NOS reoprts.

Biomass is organic matter derived from living or recently living organisms, most often plants or plant-based materials which are not used for food or feed. Biomass can be used as a source of energy and is generally seen as a cleaner source than fossil fuels.

According to Energie-Nederland, the use of biomass accounts for 1.2 percent of the renewable energy in the Netherlands. The Energy agreement states that 14 percent of the energy used in the Netherlands must be sustainable by 2020. If coal plants are denied subsidy, Energie-Nederland fears that the co-firing of biomass will completely fall by the wayside. "Then also the realization of the goal in 2020 will be in trouble", the organization writes in a press release, according to the broadcaster.

A vast majority in the Kamer, however, wants Kamp to hold off on subsidies to the power plants until it is clear whether or not they will have to be closed down. The Energy Agreement states that 5 of the 10 coal plants in the Netherlands will have to close. The Kamer majority finds it strange that on the one hand coal plants are set to close down and on the other hand, they can get billions of euros in subsidies for co-firing biomass.

The parliamentarians call on Kamp to first investigate whether the coal plants will close. They want him to examine all measures that can ensure that the court ruling in the Urgenda case can be fulfilled. In that case the court ruled in favor of environmental organization Urgenda, who sued the government to do more to ensure that CO2 emissions is 25 percent lower in 2020 than it was in 1990. These measures may include closing all ten coal plants.

Over the past few months there have been a number of calls to close all coal plants in the Netherlands in order to meet energy agreements. Calls came from 64 scientists, energy firm Delta, a joint proposal by GroenLinks and coalition party PvdA, and from a majority in the Tweede Kamer.