Under the terms of the agreement - or covenant - electricity distribution companies will undertake to provide at least 3% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2000, compared with the current 1%.
The covenant is a central plank of an action programme on renewable energy published by the ministry earlier this month. The programme also sets a target for 2010 of 10% of electricity to be generated from renewable sources, doubles renewable energy research and development funds to Ecu50 million per year, and exempts renewable energies from a national energy tax introduced last year.
Most renewable energy in the Netherlands comes from waste incineration - 88% in 1994. Under the plan, the proportion is to be progressively reduced to 60% by 2000 through a rapid expansion of other sources, such as wind and solar power.
Dutch environmental groups remain unhappy at the continuing important role played by waste incineration. Stichting Natuur en Milieu told ENDS Daily that "electricity produced in this way is not really renewable". The group is also concerned that trying to increase renewably generated electricity through voluntary agreements will not work.
Voluntary agreements have long been employed in the Netherlands to achieve environmental goals. So far, more than 100 agreements have been signed with industry, covering waste management, reduction of emissions, clean-up of contaminated soil, energy saving, and reduction strategies for industrial noise.
But this week's agreement looks likely to be the last with the electricity generators for some time. A spokesman for the Dutch Ministry for Economic Affairs told ENDS Daily today that no more covenants were planned before next year's liberalisation of the electricity sector, and that new targets after 2000 would be set by means of regulation.
The Netherlands Ministry of Economic Affairs, tel: + 41 70 379 6464; Stichting Natuur en Milieu, tel: + 41 30 233 1328.
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