Implementing the EU 2020 Climate and Energy Package in the Netherlands: Mixed Instruments, Mixed Results

FNI Report 10/2014. Lysaker, FNI, 2014, 46 p.

This report examines Dutch implementation of the 2009 EU climate and energy package, progress in implementing the EU 2020 targets, and consequences for short- and longer-term climate and energy policies in the Netherlands. A first observation is that the Netherlands supported the package and seemed well-prepared for implementing it; Dutch climate and energy policies presented in 2007 appeared largely compatible with the EU package. A second observation is that the EU package has provided greater stability for Dutch climate and energy policies. In the absence of the EU package, Dutch climate and renewables policies would have been rather low on the political agendas of recent government coalitions. A third observation is that there have been significant implementation problems concerning the Renewable Energy Directive and lack of political willingness to establish longterm strategies for a low-carbon economy. The Dutch energy mix is dominated by fossil fuels, and the share of renewables in final energy consumption was only 4.5% in 2013, a long way from its EU target of 14% by 2020. Three domestic politics explanations shed light on the Dutch implementation challenges. First, the oil and gas industry and the fossil-fuel dependent petro-chemical industry as well as other energy-intensive industries have strong interests in maintaining energy affordability, and can thus be regarded as industry interests that may slow down a transition to a low-carbon economy. Second, the Dutch consociational policy style and the key guiding principle of cost-effectiveness in climate and energy policy promote small, incremental changes rather than large-scale industrial transition. Third, strong local opposition has effectively blocked large windmill farms and onshore CCS demonstration projects, as well as shale gas exploration and test trilling in the case of fossil fuels.