University of Twente Student Theses


Biomass Boilers in the Netherlands : an adopter decision perspective

Oude Vrielink, N.H.M. (2017) Biomass Boilers in the Netherlands : an adopter decision perspective.

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Abstract:This research paper is about the adoption decision of potential adopters for biomass boilers in the Netherlands. Biomass boilers are promoted by the European Union and the Dutch government as environmentally friendly energy sources. In the Netherlands, this technique however, is not as widely used as in other countries. The main reason this research has taken place is because a lot of potential adopters decline to use biomass boilers. This is due to the fact that biomass boilers can provide an environmentally friendly alternative to fossil fuels. Currently the Netherlands is a long way behind in the amount of sustainable energy produced if compared to other European countries. Therefore biomass boilers can help creating the sustainable economy that is pursued by the Dutch government and the European Union. The main question and several sub-questions are answered in this paper, to get an insight into the adoption decision of a biomass boiler. The main question is: What is the perspective of potential adopters in the Netherlands on biomass boiler adoption? First, a literature study has been carried out to determine the relevant factors for other environmental techniques and measures and the relevant factors in other European countries. The found factors were verified empirically, by interviewing adopters, non-adopters, suppliers and other actors in the sector for biomass boilers. In total, 24 interviews were held to verify the factors for the Dutch biomass boiler situation. This has led to several relevant factors and barriers for adopting biomass boilers. The main relevant factors found in the literature were the payback period, the biomass availability, the social acceptance, the missing knowledge and clear and stable legislation. Especially the payback period was emphasised in most researched papers. A biomass boiler has some effects for the adopter such as lower fuel costs, higher investment costs, more maintenance, lower reliability and a lower carbon footprint. For every potential adopter these factors weigh differently, but some are more important than others for the adopters. Some of these effects are solved by using the right supplier, who can provide a carefree package, which includes operation and maintenance of the installation. This however, does requires substantial financial resources, making the project less profitable. Other adopters value the financial viability more and choose to do as much work as possible themselves. Because of the vast diversity of biomass boilers and their applications, there is not one standard implementation effect for adopters of a biomass boiler. Most interviewed adopters consider a biomass boiler as a ‘green’ choice because of the low carbon footprint compared to other heating techniques. However, there are also people who do not have such a rosy view on biomass boilers. For example, the origin of the fuel is questioned as well as the air-quality around those boilers. Some neighbours are afraid of nuisance in the form of smoke and pollution. A lot of these fears are not well funded and can be partially prevented by providing good information. Other concerns such as the origin of the fuel can be ensured to be sustainable by using quality marks proving the wood comes from, for example, a well maintained forest or waste wood. These negative sounds can be traced back to the stories from the suppliers, while also a the non-adopters were critical towards the sustainability of biomass boilers. The 24 interviews that were held are sufficient to get a clear view of the adoption decision, seen from several perspectives. During the interviews, some factors appeared not as important as the literature suggests, while other factors were confirmed to be important. The payback period was leading for most adopters. They often claim to buy a biomass boiler for other reasons, but if the payback period is too long or if the installation does not pay itself back at all they will not adopt a biomass boiler. That does not mean the other factors are not important, but according to the interviews, the financial viability is decisive in de adoption decision. The following factors are identified as the most influential in the adoption decision for a biomass boiler installation: • Subsidies / tax concession / feed-in tariff (such as SDE+, ISDE and EIA) o These ensure the financial viability of a biomass boiler is positive enough to adopt. • The cost of gas/oil/etc. compared to biomass o If other fuels are more expensive, biomass gets more financially viable. • Investment costs (payback period) o Currently, biomass boilers seem to be far more expensive in purchase than other techniques. • Biomass availability (at competitive price) o Some actors are afraid that there is not enough wood available for sustainable fuel. • Social acceptance/awareness o Not all potential adopters think of a biomass boiler as a sustainable alternative. As long as that is the case, they will never adopt such an installation. • Missing knowledge (about operating) o If it is not clear how much work a biomass boiler requires to operate and maintain, potential actors will not adopt a biomass boiler • Clear and stable legislation (for example emission requirements) o If the emission regulations, for example, get tightened often, the installation also needs to be upgraded regularly. This is something that is feared mainly by the suppliers. If biomass boilers become more familiar to the general public, the possibility of potential adopters becoming adopters will grow. The potential is there because many adopters who were interviewed were very satisfied with their installation. However, there exist barriers and a biomass boiler cannot be applied in every situation. This means that projects need to be selected carefully before they are initiated and executed. As a general rule, the higher the heat demand gets, the better the financial viability. The sector has to promote themselves more actively towards potential adopters. The focus must lie with companies who have a high heat demand and companies that pursue a green image. There are still many chances in areas that are not yet fully aware of the possibilities of biomass boilers. The easiest are the companies which have a stable high energy demand, but even the the energy demand varies, the latter can be solved by using heat buffers. Therefore there are chances in, for example, district heating, offices, industry and argricultural applications. Some adopters buy a biomass boiler for its environmental impact, some for the image of their company and others for the money they save. How these factors are divided exactly cannot be answered based on the interviews held for this research. Because the financial viability is relevant for all adopters, mainly the sectors which have a high heat demand have an enormous potential for biomass boiler adoption. The high investment costs which have to be earned back are the main reason this high heat demand is needed. It can be concludes that the perspective of potential adopters in the Netherlands on biomass boilers is very diverse, but it can be influenced by providing better information.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:ET: Engineering Technology
Subject:56 civil engineering
Programme:Construction Management and Engineering MSc (60337)
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