For generations, natural gas has provided the Netherlands with cheap heating for homes and offices. Over 90% of households use gas for heating, making it the only country in Europe with more gas-connected houses than the UK. But production has been dropping for years, forcing the Netherlands to rely on gas partly imported from Russia.
The Netherlands was taking slow steps to change its heating system, but now, Russia’s Ukraine invasion has forced the Dutch government to reconsider and accelerate its energy plans. The Dutch government announced it won’t allow new fossil fuel-centric heating system installations starting in 2026. Instead, hybrid heat pumps will become the norm for new buildings and renovations that need a heating system replacement.
A hybrid heat pump is a combination of a heat pump that stores warm air or water and a central heating boiler. Their use can save up to 60% on natural gas consumption, according to estimations by the Dutch government. In homes that are well insulated, residents could even go for fully electric heat pumps, which use no natural gas at all.
“The urgency of sustainability is great, and the pace must be increased. It is also better for everyone’s wallet if we use less natural gas,” Hugo de Jonge, Minister for Housing, said in a statement. “That is why the cabinet wants the hybrid heat pump to become the standard from 2026 when the central heating boiler needs to be replaced.”
An energy shift
The government’s approach mirrors those of other countries, especially now as European leaders seek to wean themselves off of Russian fossil fuels in response to the unprovoked war. The UK government, for example, is giving out subsidies of over $6,000 to help homeowners install 90,000 heat pumps over the next three years.
Thomas Nowak, secretary-general at the European Heat Pump Alliance (EHPA), said in a statement the Dutch government’s announcement is “the right step at the right time.” Nowak said manufacturers are already investing in upscaling their production, which will give customers a larger variety to choose from and will also allow greater competition.
Still, delivering on the new plan will require a big shift for Dutch citizens, used to relying on natural gas for their energy demand. To help make the transition, the government will provide $158 million every year until 2030 to lower the costs. Extra assistance will also be available through the country’s National Heat Fund, which already issues loans.
Installing a hybrid heat pump currently costs about $6,000, while a fully electric heat pump reaches $20,000, according to the Dutch homeowners association Vereningen Eigen Huis (VEH). While supporting the switch, VEH said the government’s plan will only be successful if it’s affordable for citizens, who will have to be supported.
While it might not be the main reason behind the government’s plan, scaling up heat pumps also holds a lot of promise for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In a 2018 study for the Natural Resources Defense Council, researchers found switching to heat pumps for heating could reduce emissions from California households by half.