Fossil energy sources
Unfortunately, we still use many fossil energy sources worldwide. These are exhaustible sources. They can run out. Moreover, they are often polluting. These are the most commonly used types:
Petroleum is used to make petrol or diesel. These are fuels needed to run your car, but also, for example, to run a power generator or to make plastics and other plastics. Using petroleum leads to a lot of CO2 emissions.
Natural gas is a fossil fuel mainly used for heating and cooking, but in the Netherlands it is also used to generate electricity when power consumption peaks. Natural gas emits less CO2 than oil, for example, but it is also relatively expensive.
Coal consists of plant residues that have been under high pressure for millions of years, turning them into bricks. Burning it releases a lot of energy, but also a lot of CO2, nitrogen and particulate matter. Coal is mainly used to generate cheap electricity in power plants.
Renewable energy sources
Renewable energy sources are also called alternative or renewable energy sources. Unlike fossil fuels, these often do not run out or are relatively easy to recreate. They are also (much) more environmentally friendly. These are the most common types of green energy:
Solar energy is perhaps one of the most well-known sources of energy. Here, solar panels convert sunlight into electricity. Without emitting any harmful substances. Many households and companies therefore choose to generate their own electricity with solar panels. This saves on energy costs!
Reading tip: Sustainable energy supply: how sustainable is solar energy?
In the Netherlands, we also use wind energy. Windmills along the road or in entire wind farms have large blades that are set in motion by the wind. That movement is then converted into electricity. The disadvantage, however, is that the wind does not always blow at the same speed, so a constant flow of energy is not generated.
Streams of water can also be sources of renewable energy. The power of flowing water can be used to spin councils, for example, and then convert that movement into electricity. This method is mainly used in the mountains, as the water flows down harder there than it does at home in the Netherlands.
In nuclear power, uranium is split. The resulting heat is used to create steam. This steam drives turbines and generates electricity. As this hardly emits any CO2, we consider nuclear power to be green energy. However, uranium is not an inexhaustible or renewable resource and fission also produces chemical waste.
By biomass we mean natural materials such as wood, plant residues or animal products. But it also includes various waste streams. These are all processed into biofuel. Although biomass is renewable (after all, trees can be replanted), combustion leads to quite some CO2 emissions.
Geothermal energy uses the earth’s heat to generate energy. Like nuclear energy, the heat from the ground is used to power steam turbines. In the Netherlands, we don’t make much use of this because in many cases the earth’s heat is not strong enough to convert water into steam.
What sources of energy do we use in the Netherlands?
In the Netherlands, we mainly use natural gas and wind power as energy sources. Although they have been used less in recent years, a lot of coal is still burned to generate energy. Fortunately, people are also increasingly looking to generate sustainable power using solar energy and biomass. An important development in meeting climate goals and taking steps towards a cleaner planet!