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Is strong Dutch solar growth endangering limited grid capacity?

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For many years, we have discussed ways of making our energy supply more sustainable and eliminating fossil fuels. Recently, these ideas have gradually been implemented and more ambitious targets are being set. This has included the development of wind farms and solar parks, which are likely to become a familiar feature of the Dutch landscape - in 2019 8.1 million solar panels were installed in the Netherlands, increasing the total installed capacity by 53% to nearly 7 gigawatts.

The Netherlands is catching up quickly to the rest of Europe, as the market share of renewable energy sources is rapidly rising. Furthermore, the Netherlands is now a worldwide leader with regards to the number of solar panels installed each year

Solar energy accounts for 5% of all electricity in the Netherlands

This is down to the 8.1 million new solar panels that have been installed, and the government has already awarded grants to enough projects to double this share in the coming years. However, this strong growth is causing capacity issues for the power grid.

In the northern provinces, grid operators are reaching their limit, which has already caused projects totalling 750 MWp to be put on hold. This is enough to provide power for nearly 200,000 households, highlighting the importance of upgrading the Dutch power grid to reach the government's climate goals, especially by 2030, 75% of the Dutch electricity generation will be from sustainable resources.

It's estimated that solar generation capacity could more than double the volume of wind farms by the end of the decade, provided the Netherlands goes above and beyond Paris Agreement climate change requirements.

Capacity issues call for long and short-term solutions

We know that the reinforcement of the grid and the construction of new substations and high-voltage stations will satisfy the increasing demand for capacity. However, their long lead times mean that the situation calls for short-term solutions, as demand for capacity is now growing much faster than anticipated.

Proposed solutions include:

  • congestion management by grid operators
  • legislative amendments
  • amending requirements for granting SDE+ subsidies
  • the adoption of regional energy strategies

Congestion management

Grid operators are being urged to improve their ability to manage congestion through incentivised strategies, such as financial rewards to parties that are willing to lower their electricity demand during high-demand periods, and purchasing electricity from battery owners or other providers of flexible usage.

Legislative amendments

Several legislative amendments were introduced at the start of 2020 which should enable grid operators to respond to congestion. These new measures are being considered for inclusion in a new Energy Bill.

Amendment of SDE+ application procedure

The SDE+ subsidy application procedure was amended to prevent a significant part of the SDE+ budget to be allocated to projects that will not be able to obtain a grid connection in enough time.

During the autumn 2019 SDE+ subsidy round, each applicant for a renewable energy project had to submit a statement from the grid operator indicating that capacity is available at the location of the planned project.More insight is available in the National Dutch Solar Trend Report 2020, the annual market report about and for the Dutch solar sector. This report is essential reading for businesses, trade organisations, government officials and politicians that require deep insight into all developments and trends within this sector.


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