Solar panels could provide half of Dutch electricity demand

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Solar panels could provide half of Dutch electricity demand

Data analysis of public data provides insights on the potential of solar energy

What if every suitable roof in The Netherlands would have solar panels installed? Even in The Netherlands, with its cloudy and rainy climate, solar power has great potential. If we were to install solar panels on every suitable roof surface in the Netherlands, these solar panels would provide half of the current Dutch electricity demand. This is demonstrated through data analysis as part of Deloitte’s State of the State program.

Dutch version

Our research question was: how much electricity could be generated if we would install solar panels on every suitable roof surface in The Netherlands? Our results were obtained by thorough analysis of publicly available data.

892 km2 roof surface suitable for solar panels

The Netherlands currently has a total of 9 million buildings1 of which only 4.4 percent2 have solar panels; a total installed base of 33 million solar panels in 2017. They supply less than 2 percent3 of the total Dutch electricity demand. We found that 892 km2 of roof surface in The Netherlands is suitable for solar panels, which is the equivalent of 125,0004 soccer fields. In the optimal scenario where all available surface is used, 270 million panels could be installed, with a maximum yield of 217 petajoule. Currently only 2 percent of Dutch electricity demand is generated through solar energy. That could be increased to up to 50 percent of the total demand by fully solar roofing The Netherlands.

Installing solar panels on all the roofs of houses would supply nearly 80 petajoule of energy, which equals 98 percent5 of total Dutch household electricity demand.

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Reduce carbon emission

Installing solar panels on every suitable roof in the Netherlands can reduce the electricity production-related CO2 emission with 63%6, which would reduce the total carbon emission with 20%7–based on the current situation. Based on the current Dutch energy consumption and production, the share of energy from renewable sources will be 16%8.

Two maps of the Netherlands

One map shows the roof surface suitable for solar panels per municipality and the other shows the potential per inhabitant for each province (MapGear).

The data analysis

In producing these numbers we worked closely together with Object Vision and MapGear. Object Vision developed GeoDMS, a big data geospatial modelling framework that can be used to calculate the total size, angle and wind direction of roof surfaces based on height data. MapGear develops geo apps and has extensive experience with calculating the effectiveness of solar panels.

Our calculation is based on publicly available data of the ‘Basisregistratie Adressen en Gebouwen’ (BAG) and the elevation maps of the Netherlands, AHN2 and AHN3. Not all roof surfaces are suitable: small dormers and ridges are excluded, just as roofs with a non-profitable orientation and steepness. We used a validation dataset of Mapgear for the city of Utrecht for calculating the number of solar panels per roof and total number of solar panels.

Benefits and challenges of solar impuls

Installing solar panels on every suitable roof would not only reduce carbon emission, but could also give a boost of up to 100 billion euro to the Dutch solar industry and create extra jobs.

Of course there are also challenges. The outcome of our calculation does not mean that there will be actual solar panels on every roof next year. The potential of the industry is to grow from the current amount of 6 petajoule to 217 petajoule. With an assumed growth rate of 40 percent year on year, installation of the total amount of solar panels would still take 10 years to complete.

Next to the growth rate and the installation capacity of solar panels, we discuss three additional challenges to accelerate the speed of implementation of solar panels: government incentive programs, energy grid surplus, and energy storage. In the report of our research we go into more detail with respect to these challenges.

State of the State

This research on the potential for solar panels is part of Deloitte's State of the State program, a data analysis of our country, intended to provide policy makers and organizations with useful insights on various social themes. Housing and real estate, care and safety are other themes researched within this program, for which we analyse publicly available data and look at mutual cohesion. State of the State is part of GovLab, Deloitte's platform for social innovations.

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