How sustainable are green energy suppliers?
At a time when Europe is facing an energy crisis, much attention is being paid to high energy prices. But what about renewable energy contracts? How green are they really?
In the Netherlands, energy companies supply green and gray electricity. Green electricity includes solar energy, wind energy, biomass electricity and hydropower. Gray electricity is produced from fossil fuels (natural gas and coal) and nuclear energy. The latter form of energy is discussed among experts, since no CO2 is released during production, and therefore nuclear energy does not contribute to global warming. There is only one nuclear power plant operating in the Netherlands, in Borsel. This represents the production of 4 percent of the total electricity consumption.
In the Netherlands, for example, green electricity is supplied by Energie VanOns to / new energy and Powerpeers. These companies are among the five most environmentally friendly energy suppliers of the Consumer Association, and are also marked as green in the HIER Green Electricity check. This list is considered as a leading and comparison sites such as Independer.nl accept the results.
Green electricity is traded with certificates
Green electricity literally does not run with a wire from a windmill to your home if you contract for green energy. The Netherlands participates in the European system with green certificates. "If an energy company supplies green electricity to the electric grid, it will receive a certificate for this. It is also called a guarantee of origin," says Sible Chenet, an adviser to the HIER climate foundation.
The European Union has created certificates as proof that the amount of green electricity that is being bought is actually being produced. Only this system is not waterproof, says Puk van Meegeren, an energy expert at Milieu Centraal. "In Norway, for example, there is no gray electricity. All households there are powered by hydroelectric power. In principle, Norway does not need any proof of green electricity at all, and many certificates remain." These remaining certificates are purchased by Dutch energy suppliers.
Thus, some energy companies have more certificates than they actually supply green electricity. The green electricity for which the certificate is intended will remain in Norway. And as a result, the certificate hides gray electricity. Data from the CBS statistical agency from 2020 show that more than a quarter of the electricity in the Netherlands is generated by green in their native land. The rest is gray or green from abroad. One third of the green electricity offered does not come from the Netherlands.
The biggest problem with the system is that as a consumer you contribute little to the growth of green energy if it is not generated in the Netherlands, says Schene. "Although this is exactly the main idea. And there's nothing you can do about it, because it's allowed by law." However, the consumer can certainly make a difference. For example, Shene advises to carefully investigate where the energy of an energy company comes from. "In fact, only the green energy from the Dutch soil is really green."
According to Independer.nl the group of consumers who want green electricity is growing. "Last year, 75 percent of our visitors indicated that it doesn't matter whether the flow is gray or green, but this figure has dropped to 68 percent," says Joris Kerkhof, an energy expert at the Independent. Almost 13 percent say they clearly want green electricity from Dutch soil.