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In numbers: The Netherlands’ lightning-fast shift to renewable electricity

Graphic: Sean Creighton/The Progress Playbook
Graphic: Sean Creighton/The Progress Playbook

The Netherlands’ electricity sector has undergone a dramatic transformation over the past four years, new statistics show.

In 2023, nearly half (48%) of Dutch electricity generation came from renewable sources, according to the country’s stats office. That’s up from just 19% as recently as 2019.

Over the four-year period, renewables output, measured in terawatt hours, nearly trebled amid a surge in wind and solar installations.

As a result, the Netherlands exported more electricity to neighbouring countries than ever before in 2023 — even as coal output slumped 38% from the year before.

The blistering pace of the transition is even more remarkable when considering the country’s land constraints and general shortage of solar radiation.

According to data compiled by research group Ember, the Netherlands’ emissions from power production fell 16% through 2023. The grid was particularly clean in the summer months, when wind and solar output exceeded the nation’s electricity demand on numerous occasions.

Graphic: CBS (the Dutch statistics bureau)

Yes, but: While the Netherlands was an early leader in solar adoption, growth in that segment has slowed, with wind picking up the slack.

The deceleration in solar installations, Ember says, is due to grid congestion, a lack of space for ground-mounted PV systems, and a looming phase out of the net-metering scheme, which has fuelled much of the growth in private solar installations in recent years.

Furthermore, the grid operator has increasingly had to curtail — or waste — excess solar supply from households because there’s often too much on offer. “Installing more battery storage alongside residential solar could solve this issue,” according to Ember.

Nevertheless, the Netherlands has retained its crown as Europe’s leader in solar generation per capita — at least for now.

More to come: The country aims to increase the share of renewables in its electricity mix to 76% by 2030.

To get there, it plans to more than double wind generating capacity to 23GW, partly by tapping its offshore wind resources.

A floating solar system in the Netherlands. Photo: Dreamstime

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