The city plans to wean its homes off domestic natural gas by 2050, starting now.
By 2050, Amsterdam hopes to put its gas-heated days behind it. In a city where natural gas warms 90 percent of all homes and contributes 30 percent of all carbon emissions, removing all those boilers won’t be easy—but it could very well be worth it.
From here, the deadline might seem far away, but the journey to that target is beginning right now. This week, the city announced that in 2017, 10,000 public housing units will have their gas supplies removed, and new neighborhoods in the city won’t have natural gas as an option either.
So what will heat Amsterdam in the future? The overarching answer is district heating, derived from a number of sources. By 2020, 102,000 Amsterdam homes will have switched from heat created in their homes to heat created at a central facility and supplied by a pipeline. While it requires a network of heavily insulated hot water pipes to be installed, district heating systems save considerable energy in the long run by creating a single generating point where fuel is burned. This creates efficiencies of scale that ultimately make the same amount of fuel go further.
Even if this heat were to be generated by natural gas, heating water centrally and piping it to heaters, kitchens, and bathrooms would produce far fewer carbon emissions than burning gas in each home. But in a general move against the fuel, Amsterdam is already trying to find alternative heat sources, notably waste heat from industry. Already, 70,000 of the city’s homes are warmed with water heated at a central waste incinerator. The plan is to roll this concept out further to tap into other sources of waste heat.
The plans are not all working toward greater centralization, however. Some heat pumps are being planned to keep homes warm on the new artificial islands Amsterdam has been constructing in the IJmeer lake. Some homes are also being fitted with solar water heaters, which will ultimately be able to feed unused hot water back into the wider network to generate income for the homeowner.
This all makes it sound pretty simple, but the issues ahead are still pretty huge. For heat pumps to be cost effective, for example, buildings need to be extremely well insulated, which could be why only around 1,000 Dutch homes are currently fitted with the technology. That’s an easy enough goal to manage for new construction, but it would be far harder to install in the city’s older, often rather drafty housing stock.
Download the strategy (Dutch) 'Naar een stad zonder aardgas' (PDF, 1.2 MB https://www.amsterdam.nl/publish/pages/821300/naar_een_stad_zonder_aardgas.pdf ) and the attachments (Dutch) (PDF, 831 kB https://www.amsterdam.nl/publish/pages/821300/naar_een_stad_zonder_aardgas_-_bijlagen.pdf )