Environmental Sector Profile - The Hague, Netherlands

Sector Overview

Environment technology: The Netherlands has brought environmental issues into sharp focus long before many other European countries and is highly susceptible to pollution. This is the result of a combination of factors including the large-scale Dutch agricultural sector, energy-intensive chemical and petrochemical industries, a dense population, and the role the Netherlands plays as a major distribution centre. The fact that much of the Netherlands is below sea level also makes it vulnerable to pollution, as does its position at the estuary of the Rhine and Meuse rivers, which bring contaminants from the highly industrialized countries of Germany, Switzerland, France and Belgium.

Renewable Energy: The Netherlands is a keen player in the renewable energy sector and has a growing industry in wind power, fuel cells and biofuels in particular. The government is implementing its agreed Kyoto targets for CO2 emissions and encouraging individuals as well as organizations to participate in CO2 reductions. This has led to a big consumer demand for green energy. The major Dutch energy companies have invested in wood pellets for firing power plants and large quantities are imported from Canada into the Netherlands annually for this purpose.

Within the renewable energy sector Dutch companies are interested in partnering with international companies for research and development (R&D) and technology exchanges.

Market and Sector Challenges (Strengths and Weaknesses)

Environment technology: Canadian companies wishing to enter the Dutch market will need to offer leading-edge technologies in their field to be able to compete against local companies. The Dutch have a strong position in the local environmental industry and Canadian companies should therefore expect strong competition from local manufacturers. One area in which the Dutch excel is in cleaning up highly complex pollutants. Dutch environmental consultants are frequently called upon to advise on major international clean-up programs.

The Dutch environmental sector has evolved a solid reputation for developing sophisticated technologies for air purification, wastewater treatment, household waste processing, recycling, soil decontamination and groundwater purification. Dutch companies in this sector flourish in the international marketplace particularly in water issues and soil remediation. Despite Dutch proficiency, there is ample room in the Netherlands’ environmental sector for complementary innovative Canadian technologies and niche-market products.

The best way to gain access to the Dutch market is to work with a Dutch partner. A reputable Dutch partner will be well-versed with local regulations and will be in regular contact with the central government and local authorities.

There are many commission agents and brokers in the Netherlands serving the local and European markets. A Dutch representative can handle the logistics, linguistics and other business concerns on behalf of a Canadian company. Since the Dutch market is a compact one, most foreign firms choose to have one exclusive representative for the entire country, with sub-agents if sales volume and profit margins warrant this. Many Dutch agents agree to be a Benelux (Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg) representative considering the small size of each of these countries.

Renewable Energy: The Netherlands has focussed much effort on waste recycling and disposal and has a number of state-of-the-art Waste-To-Energy plants. One plant in Amsterdam, when fully operational in 2008, will process 1.4 million tonnes of household and business waste and 100k tonnes of sludge creating some 1 million MWh of energy and 250k GJ of heat for the national grid.

Dutch research into renewable energy is carried out by a number of universities, institutes and organizations, the main one being the Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands (ECN) which has divisions focussing research on wind, solar, biomass and fuel cells as well as sustainable buildings. The Technical University of Delft researches solar and wind power in cooperation with ECN.

The Dutch government is aiming to provide 10% of the total energy needs from renewable sources by 2020. One of the most important methods of achieving this will be wind power, mostly from offshore windparks. There are no Dutch producers of large size wind turbines so there are opportunities here for international companies. The Near Shore Windpark (NSW) currently being built in Egmond aan Zee is being seen as a demonstration project from which information and experience can be gained for future (larger) offshore windparks.

Regulations for houses stipulate an Energy Performance Coefficient (EPC) to which all new homes must conform although the architect/builders can decide whether this be by use of solar panels, triple glazing, etc. This has led to whole new suburban housing areas fitted with solar panels providing power to the national grid through the summer and drawing power through the winter. There are currently opportunities within the energy efficient building sector for new technologies, materials or methods.

Sub-Sector Identification

Environment technology: There are opportunities in the Netherlands for Canadian companies with high-tech methods for wastewater treatment or soil remediation. In other sub-sectors Canadians with niche market technologies will find opportunities.

One area in which the Dutch excel is in cleaning up highly complex pollutants. Dutch environmental consultants are frequently called upon to advise on major international clean-up programs. Local manufacturers have a strong position in the local environmental industry and soil remediation sector.

Water treatment is a cornerstone of the Netherlands’ environmental industry, with Dutch engineers in worldwide demand as consultants in the design and manufacture of water treatment plants utilizing high-capacity biological purification methods. Dutch environmental companies have also acquired an international reputation in the construction of industrial water treatment plants. The low sedimentation rates and minimal odour make their patented compact anaerobic purification systems very popular with the food industry. Indeed, most of the anaerobic water treatment plants used in the world’s breweries originate in the Netherlands.

In spite of Dutch expertise in this field, there is ample opportunity for Canadian companies to contribute new and advanced technologies to the Netherlands’ water treatment sector. Trojan Technologies Inc. is one such Canadian company already active and successful in the Dutch market. In 2002, Trojan was awarded a $5.6-million contract by the Dutch water board, Waterbedrijf Europport (WBE), for an ultraviolet (UV) drinking water disinfection systems to be installed in Rotterdam. Following the pilot project a full-scale system was installed at the PWN’s Andijk drinking water plant in 2004. The plant treats 95 000 m3 of water per day and serves over ½ million people.

Renewable Energy: There are good opportunities for Canadian companies in the renewable energy sectors such as large scale wind turbines, solar power, fuel cells, biomass and biofuels. The Dutch are currently participating in European fuel cell trials with a number of hydrogen buses in Amsterdam as are a number of other European capital cities.

Excerpts from: Environmental Sector Profile - The Hague, Netherlands

January, 2008, Trade Commissioner Service

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