The Netherlands is at the first level of a gas crisis: what does this mean? † NOW

The war in Ukraine threatens the Dutch gas supply. That is why Minister Rob Jetten (Climate and Energy) and State Secretary Hans Vijlbrief (Mining) announced the first level of a gas crisis on Monday. With this, the Gas Protection and Recovery Plan from 2019 comes into effect. What does this plan entail and what measures can the government take now?

The cabinet can take measures in the event of a (imminent) shortage of natural gas. This is laid down in the Gas Protection and Recovery Plan. The plan defines three levels of crisis: early warning, alarm and emergency.

Jetten therefore announced the ‘early warning’ on Monday, because there is a real threat that problems could arise with the gas supply. According to Jetten, the war in Ukraine is the reason for announcing the first warning level. Since this month, Russia has partially stopped supplying gas to the Netherlands. Other European countries have now also (partly) been cut off from their gas supply, which is making the government increasingly concerned.

In concrete terms, the first warning level means that gas companies must now provide additional details on a daily basis about current gas supplies and stocks. If this becomes too low, the cabinet can decide whether further action is needed.

How strict those measures are depends on how dire the situation becomes. A ladder of measures has been drawn up for this in the Gas Protection and Recovery Plan. These are measures that become more severe as shortages threaten to increase.

In the protection ladder, a distinction is made between three types of gas customers. In the first category are the ‘large consumers’: the large companies and industries. They are followed by SMEs and power plants in category 2. Households, healthcare and SMEs that cannot switch to fuels other than gas fall in category 3.

The plan is aimed at protecting households and health care. These two belong to the lower categories in the ladder of measures. The aim is to touch those categories as little or not at all. They should therefore only be the last to notice.

These are the eleven measures that the cabinet can take (in order)

  • 1. A government campaign to ask the Dutch and companies to use less gas. This is now happening with the Turn the button too
  • 2. Neighboring countries are asked on a voluntary basis to purchase less gas from the Netherlands
  • 3. Dutch companies are requested to reduce their gas consumption
  • 4. An additional levy on natural gas for companies and industries
  • 5. Forcing industries to switch to a different type of fuel
  • 6. Force power plants to make a fuel switch
  • 7. Shutting down unprotected customers (industries and large companies) of the gas
  • 8. Customers not protected by solidarity (SMEs, crucial electricity production) cut off the gas
  • 9. Asking other EU countries for help
  • 10. Customers protected by solidarity, such as healthcare institutions, shut off the gas
  • 11. Shutting down entire regions in the Netherlands and stopping the total export of gas

In the meantime, the cabinet is already making preparations to anticipate a possible gas shortage. For example, the production restriction of coal-fired power stations was lifted on Monday. With this, Minister Jetten and State Secretary Vijlbrief hope that there will be enough energy for the entire country this winter. By generating more energy with coal-fired power stations, less gas is needed. In this way, the gas storage facilities will be better filled in the future.

If this measure does not help enough, the government can scale up to the second level of a gas crisis: alarms. This means that measures will be taken again. Neighboring countries may be asked to voluntarily supply extra gas or to purchase less gas from the Netherlands.

If this does not help either, more extreme measures are needed to continue heating homes and hospitals. The third and final level of the Gas Protection and Recovery Plan then comes into effect. In that case, there is a gas crisis or emergency. The heavy measures that come with this include the mandatory shutdown of large consumers or forcing power plants and industries to use fuels other than gas.

That is not yet the case, Jetten and Vijlbrief emphasized on Monday. In the near future, the government wants to focus even more on savings. For example, they want to help large consumers financially to consume less gas. Another possibility is to increase gas extraction in Groningen again, but according to Vijlbrief this will only be used as a “very last resort”.

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