New heat pathway scenario for the Netherlands proposed

Following on from previous exercises, Berenschot has calculated a new CO2 reduction scenario for The Netherlands: the heat pathway scenario, to contribute to implementing the Paris Climate Agreement.

Berenschot had already previously devised and calculated two extreme scenarios: an electron scenario and a molecule scenario. In both cases, the CO2 emissions would be reduced to almost zero by 2050. This third scenario, the heat pathway scenario, also does this but with more integration between the sectors.

A lot of CO2 reduction is achieved through large-scale use of sustainable heat, including geothermal energy, solar power, industrial and residual heat, and heat pumps. This will immediately cover a lot of the heat demand during low temperatures. The peaks in heat demand, plus the entire electricity demand, will be covered from sustainable sources such as solar and wind power, sustainable gases such as green gas and hydrogen, and with sustainable import. In short, a mix of sustainable heat, electrons and molecules.

Heat networks, heat pumps and industrial technologies

In the heat pathway scenario it is assumed that ultimately over 40% of households will be connected to a fully-sustainable heat network, with basic heat from geothermal energy or residual heat from companies and auxiliary boilers fired by green gas or hydrogen. These heat networks will mainly be used in cities with high-rise buildings and older homes that are difficult to insulate.

This makes such buildings more sustainable while saving on the more expensive structural modifications; sustainability for reasonable household costs. The rest of the sizeable existing accommodation will switch to a mix of hybrid and all-electric heat pumps on CO2-free electricity and green gas, supplemented with solar thermal energy (mainly solar boilers). New-build will always be all-electric.

The industry will be equipped with many smart heat technologies through savings, internal residual heat reuse, cascading and vapour compression (hybrid where possible) and partly electrification. For the basic supply of high temperatures in industry, a mix of sustainable electricity (electrons) and sustainable gas (molecules) will be used.

Heat and hydrogen: a welcome combination

A stable foundation for directly reducing CO2 emissions is formed by linking sizeable Dutch heat demand directly to sustainable heat sources. The peaks in the heat and electricity supply will then come from these sustainable power sources (wind and solar) with a mixed backup of green gas, limited biomass imports and hydrogen. The hydrogen is three-part: blue hydrogen (from natural gas + CCS, relatively quickly), green hydrogen (from electrolysis of sustainable power, at a later stage) and the import of green hydrogen. It is thus a mix of the previous electron and molecule scenario with heat as an additional dimension. It also remains possible to vary the situation: all scenarios use the same infrastructure and are thus compatible, both now and later. There is no lock-in; people can still choose later according to developments and perspectives.

Budget, implementation, work and innovation

Berenschot estimate the total costs of the energy supply in the heat pathway scenario as € 38 billion per year. This lies between the annual costs for the molecule scenario and the electron scenario (previously estimated at an annual € 31 billion and € 45 billion respectively). In comparison, the heat pathway scenario offers a significant reduction in natural gas consumption, which drops from the current 35 billion to around 5 million cubic metres per year by 2050: close to the electron scenario, which comes out at zero natural gas for higher costs. Further, the heat pathway scenario offers additional employment opportunities: it triples from the current 60,000 to 190,000 FTE.

For the implementation, Berenschot indicates that further innovation is important, technical as well as policy-related. There thus needs to be a rather high focus on system integration solutions in this scenario. The areas specified include research into high temperature heat pumps and heat from solar thermal energy and data centres, modifications to the electricity rate structure and improved valuation of industrial residual heat.

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