Natural gas has provided the Netherlands with cheap heat for generations. As the country’s largest gas field slowly closes down, a wealth of clean alternatives are opening up to keep homes warm.
Gerrit Biert’s feet have never been so warm. Leaning out of his doorway to point out new gas-free construction in his village, he keeps them planted inside. “It’s wonderful,” he says of his low-carbon underfloor heating, a recent addition in his rented house. “And completely off-grid.”
A housing company tore down then rebuilt his home last year as part of a larger project on several streets in the village of Loppersum in Groningen, a northern province in the Netherlands. Biert is especially proud that the rebuild has allowed him to come off the natural gas network. “I have nothing to do with gas anymore,” he says.
The effort to disconnect from fossil fuels in Loppersum is noteworthy, given its location. The village sits atop the largest deposit of methane, or natural gas, in Europe. The giant reservoir stretches under almost the entire province of Groningen and has fed the country’s gas boilers, electricity plants and heavy industries since the 1960s. But eventually the extraction caused the ground beneath the province to sink. As a result, earthquakes have increased in force and frequency across the north in the last few decades, damaging many of the homes.