Utrecht University collaborates with W/E Adviseurs and the Dutch Renewable Energy Foundation (Nederlandse Vereniging Duurzame Energie, NVDE) to help municipalities develop smart road maps to find alternatives to natural gas in neighbourhoods. Energy researcher Robert Harmsen is involved in the SmartTrans Energy Top Sector project.
“Society is facing a great challenge,” says Robert Harmsen, energy researcher at the Copernicus Institute. “The Netherlands has seven million households. They all need to be converted from gas to an alternative form before 2050. It might take a while to get going but then the pace really needs to pick up. We are assuming that up to half a million households per year will stop using natural gas by 2035.”
This is asking a lot of society. It will require significant numbers of skilled professionals to carry out the operation. “We will need to recruit a lot more people and this includes visiting schools to promote how interesting the profession is,” says Harmsen.
An additional reason for the transition, besides terminating the gas extraction, is the climate agenda. “We agreed in Paris that CO2 production must be reduced drastically, especially in the built environment. Our project fits well into obtaining these goals.”
The project will last two years. During this period, research will be carried out in three neighbourhoods in three municipalities (Breda, Nijmegen and Utrecht) into the best way to tackle the transition from natural gas. The technical need to replace the natural gas network in the near future and the fact that a large number of homes are owned by housing corporations form the basis for a successful transition. However, to ensure complete success, it is important not to forget those homes in private ownership in such neighbourhoods. Support from this group is also essential. We want to get a clear picture of the conditions for support for the municipalities.”