The minister of economic affairs recently submitted a bill to Parliament amending the Electricity Act 1998 and the Gas Act. The bill aims to modernise the legislation to enable the Netherlands' transition to a more sustainable and lower-carbon energy supply. The bill proposes the possibility of cross-shareholdings in relation to transmission system operators, which may have cross-border consequences. However, due to the bill's controversial nature, enactment is not expected before Autumn 2017.
A legislative initiative to abolish ownership unbundling of regional network operators was recently submitted to Parliament and debated by the Senate, where a majority voted against the proposed Electricity and Gas Act Bill ‒ commonly referred to as the 'STROOM Bill'. However, the rejection of the STROOM Bill has not resulted in the abolishment of the unbundling obligation of regional network operators, as provided in the Electricity Act and the Gas Act.
The minister of economic affairs recently published his final consent decision on the new five-year extraction plan for Nederlandse Aardolie Maatschappij BV (NAM). The extraction plan describes how NAM expects to extract natural gas from the Groningen gas field, the annual volume of natural gas to be extracted and how to mitigate any negative effects resulting from the gas extractions.
Public consultation on the draft bill amending the Heat Act recently closed. The draft amendment bill was announced in response to a recent evaluation of the act, which revealed a number of bottlenecks resulting from its existing application. While the draft bill addresses some bottlenecks, it also raises new questions and issues that require further clarification.
Parliament is considering a draft decree which would amend the Zoning Decree, the Environmental Impact Assessment Decree and the General Mining Industry (Environmental Rules) Decree. The draft decree is the government's response to the Dutch Safety Board's report on gas production in the Groningen province following a series of earthquakes caused by gas production in the Groningen field.
The Senate recently passed an emergency bill amending the Electricity Act, which reflects the government objective to ensure timely realisation of the goals set out in the National Energy Agreement. Following the rejection of the combined Electricity and Gas Act in 2015, the emergency bill amends only the existing Electricity Act, changing and inserting certain provisions to facilitate and enhance both on and offshore wind energy.
The Senate recently rejected the Electricity and Gas Act Bill by just one vote. The bill provided for a complete overhaul of the existing Electricity Act and Gas Act and formally designated TenneT TSO as the offshore transmission system operator. However, given the importance of this legislation, it is expected that the provisions in the bill governing the offshore transmission system will be copied and pasted into a new bill.
The Administrative Jurisdiction Division of the Council of State has annulled the decision of the minister of economic affairs regarding ministerial consent for the Groningen field gas extraction plan. As a result of the decision, the minister must issue a new consent decision on the extraction plan. In the meantime, the council limited total extraction from the field and suspended extraction in certain clusters.
The Electricity and Gas Act Bill recently passed the Second Chamber of Parliament. This bill revises Dutch energy legislation and merges the Electricity Act and the Gas Act into a combined new electricity and gas act. It further lays down the conditions for national electricity transmission operator TenneT BV to be designated as the offshore system operator. The minister of economic affairs aims for the bill to enter into force on January 1 2016.
Gas extraction from the Groningen field is causing earthquakes in the area. However, millions of Dutch households depend on this gas and the Netherlands is also tied to long-term supply contracts with neighbouring countries. The minister of economic affairs imposed restrictions on extraction in January and again in June, and is expected to make a decision on future extraction by the end of the year.
The Supreme Court recently ruled on the unbundling cases of three Dutch energy companies: Essent, Eneco and Delta. The court ruled that the provisions for the mandatory unbundling of network operators as laid down in the Electricity Act and the Gas Act are compatible with EU law – in particular, Article 63 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
The minister of economic affairs recently published his 'Heat Vision'. Heat is mentioned in the National Energy Agreement for Sustainable Growth (agreed in 2013) as one of 12 areas in which energy saving and efficiency must be achieved. In order to realise these goals, the minister intends to accelerate the process of saving and using heat. He also aims to make heat an equal energy source.
The Offshore Wind Bill has passed its first reading, during which the minister of economic affairs elaborated on a letter in which the subsidy costs for offshore wind were recalculated at €12 billion instead of €18 billion. Although the speed and determination with which the bill has progressed are laudable, many aspects require clarification to give investors and financers comfort to engage in such projects.
The minister of economic affairs recently gave public consent to the amended Groningen gas production plan proposed by Nederlandse Aardolie Maatschappij (NAM). The proposed production plan takes into account the results of further research that the state supervisor of mines and NAM conducted on the relation between gas production and the recent earthquakes.
A legislative proposal for offshore wind has been submitted to Parliament. The bill implements an important part of the roadmap for reaching the targets set in the Energy Agreement. Among other things, the roadmap provides for a new roll-out schedule of 700 megawatts of offshore wind capacity per year for five consecutive years and a new combined application procedure for a licence and subsidies for renewable energy.
The advocate general of the Supreme Court has rendered his opinion on the 'unbundling' case, in which Essent, Eneco and Delta are seeking a judicial declaration that the Act on Independent Grid Operation is unlawful. The act requires the unbundling of integrated energy companies into an independent network operator and a commercial business for the production, trade and supply of electricity and gas.
Since the Heat Act entered into force on January 1 2014, consumers and suppliers have raised many questions regarding their rights and obligations under the act. In response, the minister of economic affairs reviewed the practical problems and bottlenecks related to the implementation of the act. He has now proposed to amend the Heat Act in the short term in order to resolve a number of problems.
The Heat Act contains regulations for suppliers of heat to consumers and sets down requirements for the agreement between the supplier and the consumer. But what if the landlord of a multi-tenant office building or a shopping mall also provides the (onward) supply of heat to its tenants pursuant to tenancy agreements? Does the landlord qualify as a supplier within the meaning of the act, with all the associated consequences?
Recent expert reports have indicated that gas production in the Groningen field has caused earthquakes in the Netherlands' northernmost province. In response to growing concern and public discontent, the minister of economic affairs announced measures to limit production from the field. However, the measures have been received with scepticism.
Parliament is discussing a bill that will introduce a 90% discount for large power consumers on their transport and system services tariffs. The measure is a response to the German transport tariff discounts for large industries. Large-scale consumers (at least 50 gigawatt hours a year), with at least 65% plant operationality will be entitled to a correction of up to 90% on their annual electricity offtake volumes.