Citizens like solar panels, but subsidy pot is empty

Grant for local solar panel construction. Energy cooperatives can apply to the government and thus play an important role in the energy transition. But the number of applications is much higher than the amount in the pot can handle. And that means a lot of projects cant go on right now.

The Netherlands has hundreds of so-called energy cooperatives: citizens collaborations to work collectively on local energy supply. One of these projects is the construction of solar panels. The grant allows co-operatives making the panels a lot cheaper, making it more attractive for citizens in the cooperative to really do it.

And applying for money now goes wrong: the animo is many times higher than expected, and thats why the pot is already empty. Bad luck for many applicants, they have to try again next year. But many of those applicants are angry: they think the government has cleared far too little money ahead of time.

It cant do without grant

One of those disappointed applicants is Paul Stolte van Lochem Energie in the Achterhoek. Although he managed to obtain a grant for one project, four more are on the shelf.

โ€œThe participants participating in this are passionate people,โ€ says Stolte. โ€œThey want sustainable power too, but they just cant do that on their own roof. Then this is the only way you can achieve that.โ€

But four projects are not going on now. โ€œThe pot is starting to empty,โ€ he says.

That the pot is already empty is a good sign. Thats what Siward Summer of Energy Together, the national dome of energy cooperatives, says, โ€œWe have gone from a volunteer movement to much more professional, also thanks to the collaborations we have. Government imaging is always a few years behind what we are today.โ€

Its up?

Initially, only 37 million euros would be put in the pot. The House of Representatives finally made 92 million out of that. And that pot is already empty by now.

A total of 740 applications were made. Of these, 560 were approved (69 million euros) and 119 (23 million euros) are still pending. That means that many cooperatives are now waiting until next year with an application.

Rein van Straten of Solar Cooperative West-Friesland calls that โ€œa bad thingโ€. โ€œA lot of volunteers are committed to getting that case done. And that arrangement doesnt really promote the enthusiasm to work on it.โ€

Floris Bruning van Buurtstroom Utrecht agrees with that. โ€œThose cooperatives themselves really want. Its a pity that theres not enough budget. Cooperatives will have to wait a few months before they can proceed with their project.โ€

Energy Transition

The government wants to make the Netherlands more sustainable as soon as possible and citizens initiatives are desperately needed. But while its often hard to get people to work with, things go wrong because people want to cooperate too much.

โ€œWhat you see here is a lot of citizens involved in the energy transition,โ€ says Summer of Energy Together. โ€œThats priceless.โ€

The cooperatives hope for a solution from The Hague. Until then, quite a few projects will have to be in the refrigerator.