The argument being made by GasTerra, other parties in the energy sector and leading experts that, at least in the short and medium term, the fossil fuel gas is essential for reducing the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide would seem at first sight to be a contradiction in terms. This is because it implies that the more natural gas we burn, the lower the CO2 emissions will be. The explanation for this apparent contradiction lies in the simple fact that consuming natural gas releases considerably less CO2 than burning the other two important fossil fuels, coal and oil. Thus replacing coal and oil with natural gas where it is possible and worthwhile to do so reduces total emissions from energy consumption.

This gas paradox is the basis for GasTerra's energy transition and sustainability policy. The company focuses on public concerns about energy matters and the role of gas in the solution to the energy question: safety, security of supply and affordability, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving air quality. This is why we argue for a diverse range of means and resources to be used: major efforts to save energy, promotion of renewable energy sources, especially green gas, technological innovation, maximum energy savings, binding emission ceilings and strengthening the competitiveness of gas.

We realise in this context that in future gas will have a different position in the energy mix than it has today. For a responsible transition to a climate-neutral energy supply, we believe that gas should only be used where expensive alternatives are less attractive from an environmental impact point of view. In other words, gas will become customised: gas by design. In practice this will mean establishing priorities among the resources that we can use to reduce emissions. The gas sector has devised a special multi-stage plan for this purpose, the Ladder of Seven. One of the results of this approach is that natural gas extracted in the Netherlands, provided that it is savely produced, is preferred above imported gas. 

In this context we put the emphasis on promising gas applications: in the built environment and in the transport sector. LNG for shipping and road transport, and CNG for cars, for example, are significantly cleaner fuels that could achieve large-scale reductions in highly polluting emissions and CO2. We also argue for an effective reform of the European emission trading system to improve the present shaky position of gas in central electricity generation. We seek to engage in as much dialogue and cooperation as possible with other stakeholders, such as the government, politicians, science, education, think-tanks, NGOs and companies, stressing that we are in agreement on the aims: a climate-neutral, secure and affordable energy supply. Our point of departure is still the conviction that efficient use of natural gas will make a substantial contribution to the solution to the energy and climate question. For the time being we cannot manage without gas.

Sharing knowledge

GasTerra believes that it is vital for natural gas to acquire the right role in the energy mix as we move towards a low-CO2 future. Below we set out what we mean by sharing knowledge and participating in various projects.


Thinking about energy in education, from primary school through to university, is vital for a responsible transition to sustainable energy management. This is because we face great challenges when it comes to providing future generations with sufficient, sustainably produced and affordable energy. In 2016 we spent approximately 2.1 million euros on energy transition projects aimed at sharing knowledge via education and public debates (2015: 3 million euros).

GasTerra has worked with the Institute for Nature Education and Sustainability (IVN) to produce the teaching module ‘Energetic Primary Schools’ aimed at all primary schools in Groningen and Drenthe. Teaching packs, containing an explanation, workbooks and tests, are used to teach children more about sustainable energy and energy transition in a fun way. This teaching module is aimed at pupils in years 5 to 8. The IVN project has been rolled out in 49 schools since its launch in 2015. Over the coming years, the teaching packs will be used in over 300 primary schools, with the aim of introducing 10,000 children to the topic via this teaching module.

During the annual debate competition in the Groningen Forum, vocational education pupils from various schools discuss energy-related topics. They are assessed for their persuasiveness, authenticity and originality. Guest speakers from GasTerra go to schools to prepare pupils for the debate.

Another example of knowledge-sharing is the Energy Transition Model (ETM) funded by GasTerra. This model calculates the effect of policy choices in the energy sector. The ETM, which is freely accessible via the Internet, is used by governments, companies and NGOs.

GasTerra takes an active part in the Energy Academy Europe (EAE) in Groningen. This is a scientific body involving energy education, energy research and energy innovation. The EAE is an initiative of Groningen University and the Hanze University of Applied Sciences in Groningen.

The ‘Your Energy of Tomorrow truck', a joint project by Groningen University and GasTerra, invites young people to think about practical solutions for energy supply in the future. This travelling classroom visits over 100 secondary schools a year, teaching pupils about making energy supply more sustainable and about the role that natural gas can play in this.

Developing knowledge


The knowledge institutions TNO, ECN and the Energy Academy Europe set up a new innovation centre in Groningen in mid-2016: the Energy Systems Transition Centre: Estrac.

The role of the centre is to bring together research into energy issues addressed from various angles and to collate the knowledge. Its activities look at the effects of technical and social innovation at system level. Questions relating to consumer behaviour, psychology, and whether, how and where new technologies can be employed on a commercial scale are central. GasTerra is a partner along with Gasunie, EBN and NAM. Discussions about participation are taking place with parties in the electricity, ICT, chemicals and network sectors. Consultations are also taking place with social organisations and local energy cooperatives.

The core of the centre will be located in the new Energy Academy Europe building in Groningen. This is where the partners will investigate the influence of new energy technologies, regulation, socioeconomic behaviour, and conduct experiments to show these effects at laboratory scale. From this environment they will scale up research into energy testing grounds like EnTranCe. The ambitious research carried out by the Estrac partners will become an international, pace-setting initiative.


One of the institutions conducting research in the area of energy transition is EnTranCe (Energy Transition Centre), which is a laboratory for applied research. This living lab is located in the Zernike Science Park in Groningen and is part of the Energy Academy Europe and the Hanze University of Applied Sciences. Educational institutions and businesses conduct innovative research in this practical learning environment. The creative ideas and proposals that are born here grow into promising products or projects. GasTerra has been involved in various EnTranCe research projects since 2012 and works here with partners such as BAM, Gasunie and RWE. We are also involved in discussions on how natural gas can enable the transition to CO2-neutral energy supply. The underlying idea behind this cooperation is that we can achieve more through shared innovation.

Demonstrating knowledge

Sustainable Ameland

EnTranCe has found a long-term partner for larger-scale testing of its research projects in the form of the Municipality of Ameland. The aim is for Ameland to be 15 to 20 years ahead of the game in energy transition.

We are experimenting on Ameland, under the heading of Sustainable Ameland, in making energy supply in the built environment more sustainable, and are learning how we can involve end users in the energy transition. An agreement to this end has been concluded with NAM, Eneco, Philips and the Municipality of Ameland. Alliander and TNO also joined at the end of 2016.

As an island, Ameland is an ideal site for experimentation. It is a community of 1,650 households, which is large enough for practical experimentation but small enough to keep a clear view of the situation. The initiative shows that a successful energy transition is only possible if various energy carriers and energy sources, both sustainable and conventional, are involved and if end users are willing to cooperate.

The largest solar park in the Netherlands, consisting of 23,000 solar panels, was built on Ameland in 2016. On a day when the sun does not shine, or at night, some of the power needed can be supplied by 45 fuel cells that run on sustainable gas. Ameland’s fleet of buses powered by natural gas were replaced by electric buses at the end of 2016. Public lighting on the island is currently being replaced by intelligent light sources that react to movement and speed, low-infrared LED lighting that emits 85% less CO2. This project is due for completion in 2017.

GasTerra is involved in two projects on the island: the rollout of hybrid heat pumps to households and the generation of green gas.

The hybrid heat pump, a combination of a high-performance boiler and a small electric heat pump, can lead to a significant reduction in CO2 emissions from the built environment. It is important in this context that the electricity needed for the heat pump is generated by a low-CO2 method. The aim is for hybrid heat pumps to be installed in most households on Ameland. GasTerra wants to demonstrate by means of this project that significant CO2 reductions can take place without any changes to the existing energy infrastructure. If Ameland switches to an all-electric heat supply, or heat supply on the basis of geothermy, then significant investment in the energy infrastructure will be needed.

Work is currently being done to find out whether the island’s biomass can be used to produce green gas, and whether this gas can subsequently be used in heating and/or electricity production.

An experiment on high-pressure fermentation is taking place at EnTranCe. It has shown that high-pressure fermentation is suitable for the injection of hydrogen into the high-pressure container. The hydrogen reacts with the CO2 to produce CH4 (natural gas), and can be produced with surplus electricity generated during the production of sustainable electricity. GasTerra is having investigations carried out to ascertain whether a practical trial could be carried out on Ameland with this high-pressure fermentation in the sewage system.

This would make Ameland a blueprint for energy transition in non-urban areas.


It is in the interests of GasTerra’s clients that gas is used as efficiently as possible. This is why GasTerra encourages industrial clients to use the natural gas supplied to them in an appropriate way. This is the background to the Environmental Plan for Industry (MPI). GasTerra carried out two MPI projects in 2016. Technical consultants worked with our clients to map options for improving energy efficiency in their business processes, reducing emissions, implementing improvements and making processes more sustainable.

Renewable gas

GasTerra is involved in the ‘Green Gas Green Deal’. This is an agreement set up with the government and market players that have committed to trade biogas that can be fed into the GTS network. By purchasing ‘green gas’, GasTerra is contributing to a responsible, more sustainable energy supply.

Biogas is produced by fermenting biomass, such as green waste, manure or roadside grass that can be processed into a fuel that has the same quality as natural gas and so can be fed into the Dutch natural gas network. Once this happens, it is called green gas.

Another way of producing renewable gas is converting surplus electricity to hydrogen. Methane, the main component of natural gas, is produced by mixing this hydrogen with CO2.

The production of renewable gas can eventually help make the energy supply much more sustainable. This is why GasTerra is working with other parties to encourage the use of renewable gas, accelerate developments on the green gas market and increase the production of renewable gas. The other partners involved include HVC, Attero, Omrin, Ecoson, Greenchoice and Bio Rights.

Total green gas production in the Netherlands currently stands at approximately 100 million cubic metres a year. There is also around 300 million cubic metres that is produced and used locally, which means that the total amount of renewable gas produced is approximately 400 million cubic metres. To put this into context, in terms of energy yield this is roughly equivalent to four times the annual production of all solar panels in the Netherlands.

GasTerra helped facilitate the development of green gas in 2016 by purchasing approximately 60 million cubic metres of green gas. The key points of the strategy are security of long-term supply, competitive terms and prices that are in line with the market. GasTerra has an active approach to the producers of green gas. In 2016 three new contracts and a new connection under an existing contract were concluded for the purchase of sustainably produced gas. 

One of GasTerra’s new contracts is a gas supply contract with Porkwatt to cover 1/12/2016 to 31/12/2019. Porkwatt produces approximately 4 million cubic metres of green gas a year via co-fermentation. The biomass consists of pig manure, roadside grass, grass from ditches and leaf litter.

Stakeholders regard it as important for GasTerra to make an active contribution to making the Dutch energy supply more sustainable, and they believe that GasTerra must take a prominent role in encouraging the production of renewable gas. GasTerra can share its knowledge in this context. GasTerra considers it important for (green) gas to play its logical role in the energy supply of the future, and so has indicated that this is a material topic.

GasTerra identified the slow progress of green gas product as a significant risk with a high impact for the first time in 2016. In order for green gas to play an important role in making the energy supply more sustainable in the years to come, it is important that its position improves rapidly and that sufficient production capacity is developed. If this does not happen, the realisation that gas is inextricably linked with making the energy supply more sustainable will come under increasing pressure.

Among other initiatives, in 2016 GasTerra supported a project examining whether more green gas could be produced by fermenting sewage sludge at high pressure and adding hydrogen to it. In 2017 GasTerra will produce a plan of action describing how it can further promote green gas production. GasTerra is also involved, along with Gasunie, in heading a green gas project as part of GILDE (Gas as part of long-term sustainable energy management). Within this project, which operates under the banner of the KVGN, the gas sector and various parties involved in the energy transition examine the contribution that gas and the gas industry can make to ensuring that energy management becomes more sustainable, and that this process is affordable and reliable.

GasTerra's footprint

One of GasTerra's objectives is to promote sustainable business. We help our customers with this but we do are also aware of the impact of our own business operations. For all the products and services that we purchase, we make our choice on the basis of price, quality and the ecological footprint of the suppliers. We do this because we think it is important that sustainability is rooted within and outside our organisation, and that we take corporate social responsibility seriously.

We also look at locations when choosing a supplier, giving preference to local partners in order to boost the economy of the Groningen area. In 2016, 36,749,213 euro was spent on non-gas-related goods and services, including automation, temporary staff, catering and cleaning. 26,427,250 euro of which were provided by suppliers from the region. 

Energy consumption

GasTerra’s building has an A+ energy label, and green electricity and green gas for our own consumption is bought in and generated internally by means of solar panels.

GasTerra aims to keep its gas consumption below 35,000 cubic metres a year. This target was met in 2016. January was a cold month, which meant that gas consumption was higher than in 2015 Gas consumption in 2016 was 27,174 cubic metres, compared to 38,264 cubic metres in 2013. 

The office is heated by two gas heat pumps using geothermal energy (storage of heat or cold). In cold weather, when the heat pumps do not have sufficient capacity, two HR107 boilers are available as a buffer to increase capacity. We also have a ‘smart’ lighting system so that lights are not kept on at times when they are not needed, and during holiday periods we close off floors to save energy. By giving staff a greater insight into energy use and their share in it, we expect to be able to further reduce energy use in the years to come.

  2016  2015 
Gas consumption 27,174 m³ 19,274 m³
Electricity 348,619 kWh 338,504 kWh
Water consumption 1,270 m³ 1,324 m³
Paper consumption 333,336 sheets 438,505 sheets

In the context of the European Energy Efficiency Directive (EED), GasTerra has set up an energy-saving plan of action this year (the energy audit). The report has now been approved by the municipality of Groningen. It describes current energy consumption and also summarises the action taken to reduce CO2 emissions by 2% a year over the next three years compared to 2015 figures.


GasTerra’s office has a limited number of parking spaces for visitors. Staff travel to work by public transport or bicycle, and working from home is on the increase. The occupation rate of the building is therefore falling by about 10% a year, something which we encourage by means of flexible working and good digital provision.

GasTerra again set off its CO2 emissions for flights and lease cars in 2016. We also set off the CO2 emissions of our office by buying carbon credits from the Climate Neutral Group (CNG). The CNG is then able to invest in climate projects in countries where this has a spin-off effect on the local economy, employment, incomes, the environment and the climate. CNG meets strict quality criteria and is audited by independent bodies. GasTerra has therefore decided to set off CO2 emissions via a sustainable gold-standard project investing in biogas installations for families in Tanzania

The nature of our activities means that the footprint of our business is limited. Nevertheless we share ideas with our stakeholders on how they could reduce their footprints. Through the Environmental Plan for Industry (MPI), for example, we advise our customers on how to use less energy and we are actively working to produce gas from sustainable sources such as hydrogen gas. As a consequence of the rise of the TTF, communication with our customers is not as easy as it used to be. With this anonymous form of trading, we have little or no knowledge of what actually happens to the gas after it is sold. For this reason we try to promote the idea of reducing the footprint of natural gas production at the purchase stage. For example, GasTerra is one of the parties in the Project Delta Group (PDG) public-private partnership, in which we share ideas about how to reduce the footprint of gas production in Russia. The PDG does this by, for instance, sharing best practices in the area of natural gas production and reducing the physical footprint at the production sites.