NOS Nieuws•vandaag, 21:49
The subsidy for solar panels should only be abolished if there is a concrete alternative. This includes Vereniging Eigen Huis, the Woonbond, housing association umbrella organization Aedes and the Consumers’ Association.
In a letter to the House of Representatives, they write that otherwise households with lower incomes in particular could delay sustainability, and thus also the chance of a lower energy bill.
The government wants to gradually phase out the so-called net metering scheme from 2025, but does not yet have enough political support for this. Tomorrow, the House will debate the phasing out of the scheme again.
On sunny days, households with solar panels often generate more electricity than they themselves consume. They supply that extra power back to the grid and, via the net metering scheme, they can offset it at the end of the year against the power they have purchased from the grid. The scheme has been extremely successful, one in five households in the Netherlands now has solar panels.
Critics think the scheme is unfair, because energy companies pass on the benefit for people with solar panels to customers who do not have solar panels.
According to a recent study by the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM), the energy bill can be up to 200 euros higher per year as a result. The scheme is also referred to as “a redistribution from poor to rich”, because relatively more high-income households have solar panels.
That is a reason for the cabinet to tackle the net metering scheme, the ministry says: “The Netherlands is now European solar panel champion. That is very good news, but it also means that the costs of the net metering scheme for households without solar panels are getting higher and higher. Solar panels are also becoming more and more efficient and pay for themselves faster and faster.”
Fear of diminishing support
In their joint letter to the House, the housing associations emphasize that the abolition of the net metering scheme can also have negative consequences for lower income groups, for example in the social rented sector.
More than 16 percent of social rental homes now have solar panels. By way of comparison: this is about 35 percent for owner-occupied homes. Residential umbrella organization Aedes aims for more than 30 percent of the social rental to have solar power by 2030.
In the current situation, housing associations often purchase the solar panels in order to recover the purchase price via the service costs in installments and partly from the tenant.
Tenants often agree to this, because their energy bills are immediately lower due to the net metering scheme. Both the Woonbond and Aedes fear that support for solar panels could decrease if the rule is removed.
“We were just getting up to speed, but we are already noticing that tenants are applying the brakes more often because they have too many questions about the future,” says Aedes chairman Martin van Rijn.
Tenant Victor Boel has solar panels through his housing association and does not agree with the abolition of the net metering scheme:
‘If I had known this, I wouldn’t have taken solar panels’
At the moment it is not yet clear exactly what will replace the net metering arrangement. Minister Jetten of Climate has said that his starting point is to keep the payback period of solar panels at seven years, even after the subsidy has been abolished.
The ministry also announces that there will be a minimum compensation for fed-in electricity. “As a result, it remains worthwhile to invest in solar panels even without netting”, the ministry emphasizes. The amount of that compensation is not yet known.
The housing associations want clarity as soon as possible. “We are not against the abolition of the net metering scheme, the criticism is understandable,” says Marcel Trip of the Woonbond. According to him, there should be clarity about the feed-in tariff soon.
According to the Woonbond, there should also be a subsidy that is specifically aimed at installing solar panels on rental properties or homeowners with a small budget. “If you want those people to benefit too, you have to make a policy on that, and that is still lacking at the moment.”
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