Article written by Charlotte Klein for NOS News on Tuesday, January 17, 2023
The House of Representatives of the Netherlands debated the phasing out of the balancing scheme, under which solar panel owners received money for their generated solar power. It was intended to stimulate, and it has worked: one in five households has them on the roof, making the Netherlands the European leader.
According to politicians, the scheme is becoming increasingly unfair, a solar panel is still profitable without the scheme, and in addition it slows down the development of home batteries. These can be used to relieve the overflowing electricity grid.
Netting has therefore had its best day, says not only the coalition, but also solar panel industry club Holland Solar, Netbeheer Nederland and Authority Consumer and Market (ACM).
“Things are going insane with solar panels, thanks to offsetting many private individuals are involved in the energy transition,” says Wijnand van Hooff, general director of Holland Solar, “The scheme was meant to be a start and it more than succeeded. It is time to phase it out.”
What is netting? The moment a household produces more power than it consumes, for example during a sunny afternoon, it delivers that extra power to the grid. If the washing machine and oven are turned on in the dark at night, the house will receive electricity from the grid. Generation and consumption are offset against each other, and that is called net metering. A household that generates more in a year than it consumes receives an extra payment.
Energy suppliers incur additional costs as a result, which they pass on to all their customers. According to the ACM, at current electricity prices, households without solar panels are therefore paying several tens extra per month.
As the group with solar panels grows, a smaller and smaller group of people is paying for a growing group. That is the unfair aspect of the scheme.
There’s another reason to do away with it: a solar panel will pay for itself in no time with high energy prices. “Before the Ukraine war the payback period was seven years, now it is sometimes in a mere two years,” says Hans-Peter Oskam of Netbeheer Nederland. “Even without net-metering, however, it remains very profitable.”
The plan is as follows. Starting in 2025, the amount that is netted away decreases step by step. In 2031 it will be phased out. Then you will still receive compensation for delivered electricity based on the actual electricity price.
Political reporter Ewoud kieviet "The cabinet has wanted to get rid of the balancing support for years, but now it is really going to happen. Because of the high energy prices, the scheme creates too much inequality, according to the coalition and parties like PvdA and GroenLinks. On the other hand, they want guarantees that it remains profitable to purchase solar panels; the investment must be recouped in seven years. The VVD, D66 and ChristenUnie want a subsidy for home batteries and neighborhood batteries instead of solar panel support. Left-wing opposition parties and the CDA believe that this will create even more inequality: "We should not subsidize the Tesla battery."
There is a third reason why things need to change: the grid is overflowing. On average, a household feeds back two-thirds. Because the sun usually shines in the same places, this happens at the same times.
Oskam: “There are already moments in the summer when the whole of the Netherlands can be supplied with solar power.”
Therefore, according to Netbeheer Nederland, we should use power at times when the sun shines, but tuning in can be difficult and is not currently encouraged.
The home battery market is therefore growing steadily, especially in Germany. The Netherlands is noticeably lagging behind. Why? Van Hooff: “Because of net-metering, there is no incentive to take one. It is more advantageous to supply power to the grid than to store it in a home battery.”
“But now the grid is used as one big free battery, and the grid is full,” says Oskam. But like Milieu Centraal, he too advocates a future where generation and consumption are aligned. “The home battery is not the one, but one of the solutions to that.”