Sustainable energy system

In the Netherlands, intensive work is being done on a sustainable, reliable and affordable energy landscape, which is essential for our society. We use renewable and carbon-free sources to power society. This could include solar, wind, hydropower, geothermal energy and biomass. So a sustainable energy system does not use fossil fuels, such as oil, coal and natural gas, because these sources contribute to climate change and ultimately are. A crucial aspect for the success of the energy transition is the emergence of reliable and up-to-date information on its progress. On this page you will find information about the progress of the Netherlands towards a sustainable, reliable and affordable energy system.

Gross total energy consumption 2021 (in PJ) – Source: CBS

What happens with our energy?

In 2021, energy consumption in the Netherlands was 3020 petajoules (PJ). This was the country’s total energy demand. Most of the energy was consumed by end consumers. The 1795 PJ (59%) in total included, for example, the use of natural gas to heat homes, motor oil or electricity to run a company’s lights. This usage is also called ‘final consumption’ or ‘end consumption’. Of the remaining 41% of the energy consumption, 18% was used for non-energy purposes, such as the production of plastics from oil. 15% of the consumption involved the loss of energy when converting from one energy carrier to another, such as converting gas into heat. 7% was used for the generation of energy (own consumption) and there was 1% loss of energy during transportation/transmission.

Final energy consumption by energy carrier 2021 (in %) – Source: CBS

Change in final energy consumption by energy carrier (in PJ) – Source: CBS

Which energy carriers provide the energy we use?

Final consumption refers to the volume of energy used directly by end consumers, such as businesses, households, or services. The chart to the left shows the energy carriers that make up Dutch final consumption. These are energy carriers that are consumed directly by the end consumer. For example, wind power is not an energy carrier, as this is not used directly by an end consumer. Wind power is the energy source. The electricity it generates is the energy carrier.

The vast majority of final consumption in 2021 consisted of the energy carriers oil with 966 PJ (41%) and natural gas with 733 PJ (31%). In third place was electricity with 386 PJ (17%), followed by thermal with 178 PJ (8%). Another 52 PJ (2%) came directly from renewables, and coal accounted for 1% of final consumption. The 52 PJ of renewables in 2021 were mainly from biomass (29 PJ), ambient energy (16 PJ) and geothermal (6 PJ).

Historically, oil and natural gas are the most commonly used energy sources. The final consumption of oil has been rising over the last few years, while the use of gas has dropped significantly. The share of electricity in final consumption is slowly but surely increasing.

Electricity generation by energy source (in GWh) – Source: CBS

Electricity generation by energy source 2022 (in %) – Source: CBS

Where does our electricity come from?

In 2021, electricity was the third largest energy carrier in the Netherlands at 385.8 PJ. Around 33% of this can be considered renewable electricity. In 2022, this share rocketed to 40%. The chart to the left shows which sources are used in the net production of electricity. In other words, the production minus the energy sector’s own usage. By the way, the chart only shows domestic electricity production, it does not include electricity imported by the Netherlands.

Coal and natural gas have long been leaders in the production of electricity. The use of coal-fired power plants has sharply declined over the years. Wind and solar have now overtaken coal in electricity production. These two sources will continue to grow in the coming years

Natural gas will remain the main source for electricity. Indeed, until 2020, the use of natural gas for the production of electricity actually increased, before seeing a sharp decline over the last two years.

Nowadays, natural gas is still the largest contributor to electricity production, at 40%. The sustainable sources solar, wind and biomass have become strong competitors. Together, they also account for 40% of the production of electricity. 18% of this comes from wind power, 15% comes from solar energy and 7% is from biomass. Coal and oil combined make up 15% of electricity production and 3% is generated by nuclear power plants.

In the chart, the production of electricity does not fully correspond to the final consumption of electricity. This is because the import and export of electricity has not been taken into account, and neither has the energy lost during transmission or transportation.

Greenhouse gas emissions by sector 2022 (in bn kg of CO2-equivalent) – Source: CBS

Which sectors emit the most?

The Netherlands has taken great strides towards making electricity production more sustainable. However, the energy sector is still the second-largest carbon emitter in the Netherlands. The industrial sector emits the most carbon: more than 48 billion kg of CO2 equivalent in 2022. This is 32% of the total emissions. The production of electricity and the production of fuels for domestic traffic were each responsible for 20% of the total emissions. About 30 billion kg of CO2 equivalent in total. Agriculture emitted 24 billion kg CO2 equivalent, adding up to 16% of the total. The built environment, at 16% of the total emissions, proved to be the smallest polluter, although this still amounts to 20 billion kg of CO2 equivalent.