The road to Paris

A design exploration for a carbon neutral Netherlands

What are the spatial consequences of the energy transition, or what will the Netherlands look like in 2050? With the design exploration The Road to Paris (Via Parijs), we show how we can shape the energy transition in the coming decades. It shows an inspiring vision on the future in 2050 that arises from spatial choices and the logic of systems. It shows that this transition offers opportunities to make the Netherlands even more beautiful and cleaner. In the Climate Agreement, arrangements were made until 2030. This strategy looks further ahead, until 2050, when the Netherlands will be CO2 neutral. In this design exploration the entire task for CO2 reduction has been mapped and placed in a national perspective. An inspiring narrative, a "bigger story" about the Netherlands that gives direction to the transition to a post-fossil society.

Hard work is being done in the Netherlands to make room for the transition to a sustainable energy system. Municipalities, provinces, water boards and government parties work together in thirty Regional Energy Strategies (RESs) to come up with proposals for the generation of sustainable electricity, the heat transition in the built environment and the required storage and infrastructure.
But what are the spatial consequences of the energy transition? Many people hardly have an idea of what the Netherlands could look like in 2050. An inspiring picture of the future, which shows what is possible and feeds the social debate, can help to make the energy transition efficient and effective. Such a spatial image can also be helpful for the Netherlands in making the RESs. The assignment of one's own region is thus linked to the larger whole. The Board of Government Advisors (CRa) finds such a vision of the future a must.

The subsurface
A large part of the required measures and infrastructure can be realized underground. Networks for heat, hydrogen, green gas, and even biomass can be realized underground, often using existing infrastructures or in existing spatial reservations. The subsurface can also be used as a source for heat (geothermal, aquathermy and WKO) and for storing energy in empty gas fields or salt caverns.

The living environment
The Netherlands is a society in which economic activities and the associated benefits and burdens are geographically distributed across the country. The Netherlands has cities, (air) ports, petrochemical complexes, nature reserves and greenhouse horticulture that, as organs of a body, fulfill a certain function for the whole. The energy supply should not be an exception. With the current policy, however, wind turbines and solar panels threaten to be scattered all over the Netherlands. The question is whether the Netherlands as a whole benefits from this. The future Via Paris assumes a large-scale concentration of solar and wind energy, both at sea and on land. This is cost-effective and limits the visible spatial impact on a national scale.

This coherent picture of the future shows that if we dare to choose, the energy transition can lead to a more contrasting Dutch landscape and not to more uniformity. It is inevitable that together we will seek as much opportunities as possible to connect the energy transition with other necessary transitions. Only then can we make the energy transition land successfully and prevent cluttering of our country. Only then will we be able to choose efficient and affordable solutions, and at the same time build a better version of the Netherlands. If we approach the energy transition sectorally, social resistance is likely to increase further and the Paris objectives will be out of sight.


ir. Marco Vermeulen, ir. Bram Willemse, ir. Joost van der Waal

in cooperation with
The Board of Government Advisors

Research by design


Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy
Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations

A design exploration for a carbon neutral Netherlands
A design exploration for a carbon neutral Netherlands
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