Zero Carbon Compendium


'With regard to energy imports and exports, the Netherlands is the second largest natural gas producer in Europe and the ninth overall worldwide. However, a large percentage leaves the country, which makes it the fifth largest natural gas exporter globally'

Key Facts

Country Population:16.8 m
Capital Population:1 m
Area:33, 883 km²
Density:492 people/km²

National Carbon Overview

During World War II, 95,000 of Holland's two million dwellings were completely destroyed, 55,000 were seriously damaged, and a further 520,000 were slightly damaged. Today, around 70,000 new dwellings are built every year. In terms of energy efficiency, households improved their energy efficiency by more than 30% from 1990-2009, brought about mainly by improvements in heating efficiency.

With regard to energy imports and exports, the Netherlands is the second largest natural gas producer in Europe and the ninth overall worldwide. However, a large percentage leaves the country, which makes it the fifth largest natural gas exporter globally.

According to SenterNovem, an agency of the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs in charge of promoting sustainable development and innovation, low energy houses are in the market introduction phase, and the main barrier to their introduction is the general low quality of buildings in the Netherlands – in terms of thermal insulation and airtightness.[1] There is currently a strong push from SenterNovem to coordinate heat pump development to the emerging low‑energy housing market. Current thinking is that a CO2-free society is only possible with heat pumps – in combination with renewable electricity, good insulation, housing design and quality, and clear and transparent process management.[2]


Exemplar Project

Etten Leur Zero Energy Housing
Etten Leur, The Netherlands

Etten Leur. Bear Architecten

Etten-Leur, by BEAR Architecten, is a project with 43 houses, with a target for 50% reduction in energy consumption compared to the 2000 Dutch Building Code. The remaining 50% of the power required is supplied by an energy-generating roof. Techniques include passive solar energy, high insulation standards, high performance windows, a heat recovery system, heat pump and ground aquifer, photovoltaics on the roof, and a low-temperature radiant heating system.

During the summer, heat is stored in the ground for winter use. The 'energy roof' consists of 45 m2 of PV panels per house that are raised to form an overhang above the houses. In doing so, the increased ventilation helps to improve the system's performance. By doing this, house orientation can be independent of the solar PV systems, and the systems can easily be reached, maintained and expanded if necessary. [8]

Policy and Targets

From 1995, Dutch policy has set energy performance standards for new dwellings using the Energy Performance Coefficient (EPC). Related to building size, the EPC limits the amount of natural gas usage annually for heating, hot water and cooking. These standards have improved energy efficiency in new dwellings by over 50% since they were implemented. Energy labelling for appliances was introduced in 1996, and more recently, energy performance certificates have also been introduced as part of compliance with the EU Energy Performance Building Directive.[3]

Through the More with Less programme (Meer met Minder), the Dutch government established voluntary agreements with key partners in the housing, energy and construction sectors, with an aim of reducing energy consumption in buildings by 100 PJ by 2020.[4]

Existing Frameworks

The Dutch building law comprises the Building Decree on Energy and the Energy Performance Standard for residential buildings. Introduced in 1995 and strengthened in 2000. These set performance standards for energy efficiency of new buildings and major renovations under the Dutch Energy Performance Standard. Since the standard is performance-based, it allows flexibility in achieving compliance, as the focus is on total energy performance and not on stand-alone solutions.[5]

The Compass programme is a SenterNovem instrument for achieving the CO2 reduction goals as set out in the Kyoto agreement. Programmes include providing advice on energy performance and energy saving measures, the introduction of housing energy labels, the development of the EPCheck tool for checking and improving the calculation for the EPC, providing support and tools for implementing the EU Energy Performance Building Directive and providing assistance to housing associations.

Support, Incentives and Grants

Countries like Germany and Austria have established themselves as leaders in energy efficient building and renovations, but the Netherlands is lagging behind despite the availability of the technology – this stagnation appears to be caused by the lack of incentives for energy efficient buildings.[6] Improved standards have certainly improved the standards of build quality, however most of the funding in the Netherlands is being directed towards sustainable energy generation, and not for housing, such as the SDE+ scheme which provides funding for the installation of renewable energy and CHP.[7]

One program directed at housing was the Market Penetration Strategy for Energy Efficient Appliances. Introduced by the Dutch government, the scheme aimed to promote the commercial viability of efficient appliances through labels and rebates. However, the program ended in 2006.



  1. Kleefkens, O. (2008). Economical Heating & Cooling Systems for Low Energy Houses, IEA HPP Annex 32.
  2. SenterNovem. Low Energy Houses in the Netherlands, Annex 32. (2008). Presentation.
  3. Dutch Ministry of Housing. Spatial Planning and the Environment, 'Energy and Sustainability in Housing.'
  4. Energy Efficiency Profile: Netherlands. (2008).
  5. van Ekerschot, Francis and Heinemans, Marjolein. (2008). Implementation of the EPBD in The Netherlands: Status and planning in June 2008. European Communities.
  6. Nieuwenhuijzen, J. (Oct. 2008). German-speaking countries have a substantial head start: Lacking 'price incentives' holds back sustainable building and renovations. Real Estate Journal.
  7. International Energy Agency. (2010). Energy Efficiency: Policies and Measures.
  8. Bear Architecten. PV Projects.
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