The Netherlands increases the activity of coal-fired power plants to reduce gas use | Economy

Gas production plant in Groningen, the Netherlands.
Gas production plant in Groningen, the Netherlands.Michael Kooren (REUTERS)

The Dutch government has decided to increase the production capacity of coal-fired power plants to reduce the use of natural gas and thus avoid a shortage of the latter next winter. Although the dependence on Russian gas by the Netherlands is limited, at 15%, the measure involves launching what the cabinet calls the “first phase of the gas crisis”. It is the initial response to the control exercised by the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, over the energy supply to Europe due to the war in Ukraine. At the same time, Rob Jetten, the Dutch Minister for Climate and Energy Policy, has called on citizens “to save energy as much as possible”.

Jetten, who announced the new measures on Monday, said there was still no shortage, but added: “Putin is using gas more and more as a means of power, and standing still is too risky.” There is an additional problem, and that is that the three Dutch coal-fired power plants can only operate up to 35% of their capacity due to the impact of CO₂ emissions. Although the minister has not specified the percentage that will be authorized from now on, the measure will last until 2024. Without the war in Ukraine in the background, the closure of these plants was scheduled for 2030. Germany has also just announced an increase in burning coal to ensure energy supply.

In this context, Minister Jetten stressed that “he does not lose sight of the climate protection goals”. The cabinet maintains that it wants to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030, the objective to which the European Union has committed itself. At the end of May, Christian Democrats and Right Liberals, two of the parties in the current centre-right coalition, supported increasing coal-fired electricity production. “We cannot play Russian roulette with the security of gas,” Liberal deputy Silvio Erkens said at the time.

The Left Liberals, the party to which Minister Jetten belongs, called for measures to compensate for the increase in CO₂ emissions if necessary. Now that the Government allows the increase in the activity of coal-burning power plants, it will have around 1,500 million euros -previously destined to compensate them for cutting emissions- to invest, among others, in energy saving projects.


The Netherlands has a natural gas reserve in the province of Groningen, located in the north of the country. The deposit was discovered in 1959, but its extraction generates seismic activity, and in the last forty years there have been more than a thousand earthquakes, in some cases of magnitude 3.6 on the Richter scale. Since 2014, production has been cut, and from 2023 these reserves will only be used in an emergency.

Given the situation in Ukraine, Hans Vijlbrief, Secretary of State for Mining, has assured that “the Groningen tap will only be opened as a last resort”. He has given this example: “If the energy supply in hospitals and residences for the elderly, in our country or among our neighbors, were compromised.” For now, the deposit “will remain in use to be flexible given the uncertainty of the energy market,” he added. Until September 2022, 4.54 billion cubic meters of gas will be extracted. Until October 2023, when the closure is planned, the production will be about 2,800 million cubic meters. There are 450 billion cubic meters of gas left in the field, according to government data.

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