Netherlands not prepared for gas shortages: report

Milieudefensie and Groningen residents dump fracking earthquake rubble in front of the Ministry of Economic Affairs in The Hague, 26 Oct 2017
Milieudefensie and Groningen residents dump fracking earthquake rubble in front of the Ministry of Economic Affairs in The Hague, 26 Oct 2017Photo: @milieudefensie / Twitter

The Netherlands is not sufficiently prepared to deal with the consequences of a long-term gas shortage, according to a crisis plan from the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate that EenVandaag got hold of by appealing to the freedom of information act.

The crisis plan describes possible steps the Netherlands can take if gas extraction in Groningen has to be halted sooner than planned, for example due to a massive earthquake, and if the country can't get enough gas from abroad to meet the demand. The plan dates from January 2018. 

The crisis plan shows that Dutch society will face major consequences if there is a long-term gas shortage. Corporate gas consumers may have to be forcibly disconnected from the gas network, something Minister Eric Wiebes of Economic Affairs and Climate previously mentioned as an option. But the plan shows that this disconnection will not be easy. This is because the gas shut-off is usually located on a company's own property.

If a company paid its gas bills, there is not much that can be done to force the company to disconnect from the gas network, according to the plan. "The gas valve for each connection is located on the consumer's own premises. As long as the consumer complied with his obligations, there are currently few opportunities to request access to the premises or terrain", the plan states, according to EenVandaag.

The plan also discusses what needs to be done if shutting companies off the gas network does not solve the shortage. In that case "there remains one last option" - cutting cities, regions or areas off the gas network. According to the Ministry, this will result in the areas in question becoming "unlivable in the short term". "The consequence is that an evacuation advice must be given for the region concerned."

The government wants to stop gas production in Groningen completely by 2030. Next year 19.4 billion cubic meters will be extracted in the province. The current extraction limit is 21.6 billion cubic meters.

In June Wiebes answered parliamentary questions on what will happen if gas extraction in Groningen must be stopped faster than expected. He did not address the question of whether there is a crisis plan in place, but did say that the disconnection of gas consumers is a complicated issue, according to "Priority must be given to the supply of gas to so-called protected consumers, namely households and essential social services such as healthcare institutions." That is prescribed by European law.  


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