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NL: Government and horticulture find each other in energy transition

The Dutch government is working hard to achieve climate targets. For this purpose, the so-called climate tables discuss the measures that different sectors can take and which effects they have. Greenhouse horticulture is an important player within the climate table Agriculture. The Greenhouse Horticulture business unit of Wageningen University & Research has been asked to carry out scenario studies with the aim of eventually reducing the use of fossil energy to 0.

Horticulture is closely linked to the Dutch energy infrastructure. This is primarily due to the fact that the sector is an energy-intensive industry: currently, horticultural businesses use around 3 billion m³ of natural gas per year. That gas consumption is for heating, but for a large part also for the production of electricity. Electricity for use on the farm (especially lighting), but also for delivery to the public grid.

The Dutch government is developing a policy to reduce CO2 emissions at a fast pace, so that our country can meet the climate goals of Paris. For horticulture this means a substantial reduction in the use of natural gas. The ultimate goal is to no longer use fossil energy and to fully transfer to sustainable energy.

At the same time, strong horticulture is important for the Dutch economy. That is why representatives from government and horticultural organizations try to develop policies in good consultation to reduce CO2 emissions without harming the perspectives for the sector.

In such negotiations objective figures and real expectations of developments are of great importance. In the 'Horticulture without fossil energy' project, Wageningen University & Research, together with Agro Advies Bureau (AAB), investigated the various possibilities. The research is funded by 'Greenhouse as Energy Source' the innovation and action program of the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality and LTO Glaskracht Nederland and co-financed by the Foundation Program Greenhouse Horticulture.

The report is almost ready and offers a clear view of the possibilities. The main line is that developments with which there is already some experience (such as the use of geothermal energy, industrial residual heat and heat / cold storage) can and will be applied on a large scale. And that the CHP installations now used everywhere, with which horticulturists produce heat, electricity and CO2 for their crops, will disappear.

From an important electricity producer, horticulture will thus change in the direction of a large electricity user. This despite the expected developments in LED lighting. The tendency to focus more and more and the increasing role of heat pumps is stronger than the profit that can be achieved with more energy-efficient systems. The fact that greenhouses have some flexibility in the use of electricity for lighting means that horticulture can also play a role in the balancing of the electricity grid.

An important conclusion is also that measures that growers are now taking in the direction of sustainability retain their value in the future. For example, a step-by-step development can take place that fits within the prevailing market conditions and eventually results in fossil-free horticulture.

Source: Wageningen University & Research

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