Scientific report MIRA 2009 – Sub-sector greenhouse horticulture

Dirk Bergen (AF Department), Bert Vander Vennet (ILVO), Stijn Overloop (VMM)

February 2010

In the MIRA-S or exploratory environment report, imposed by a Flemish Parliament Act, a description is provided of the expected development of the environment with an unchanged policy, and with a changed policy according to a number of relevant scenarios. Traditionally, such a scenario exercise has been carried out for all relevant social clusters, such as households, industry, energy, transport, trade and services and agriculture. In addition to the exercise for the agricultural sector as a whole, an additional scenario exercise has been performed for greenhouse horticulture for the 2030 exploratory environment report. This is useful because within the agricultural sector greenhouse horticulture is a large consumer of energy and water. In the case of energy the corresponding emission of greenhouse gases and other pollutants must be taken into account. The study was the result of a collaboration between the Division for Agricultural Policy Analysis (AMS) of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and the Agriculture and Society unit of the Institute for Agricultural and Fisheries Research (ILVO).

The first part of the report contains a detailed description of the greenhouse horticulture sector, with 2006 as reference year. This information is to enable us to characterise the sector and quantify a number of parameters in order to integrate them into the model to be generated for the scenario exercise.

In the second part the model is developed and the assumptions necessary for the development of the three selected policy scenarios are explained: the reference or BAU (Business As Usual) scenario without a new policy, the Europe scenario (with additional measures to reach the European objectives) and the so-called visionary scenario (with drastic/visionary/transition measures needed to achieve long-term goals). Firstly, the scenario exercise itself shows that energy consumption will be reduced in all scenarios compared to 2006. This goes against the general trend of increasing energy consumption in the other sectors. The explanation for this is the large share of energy costs in the total costs of greenhouse horticulture businesses. As a result, these businesses will always look for cheaper alternatives where energy consumption is concerned. There are several possibilities available to them: reducing fuel consumption and using cheaper fuels or technologies, or switching to crops that require less energy.

Secondly, attention has been paid to the question of energy efficiency and how this could be translated in the three scenarios.

A third part of the scenario study refers to emissions. These are studied both according to the so-called MIRA approach and according to the ‘carbon footprint’ method.

From the remarks formulated by the authors it is clear that further discussion is necessary on whether or not emissions should be passed from one sector to another. Questions also arise as to what should be done with residual heat: valorise it, or avoid it from the start. Also in relation to residual heat technology, there is the possibility that greenhouse horticulture will become too dependent on the associated industrial areas, unless heat networks can be set up with a sufficient number of heat suppliers and consumers. Indirectly, greenhouse horticulture businesses will also remain dependent on fossil fuels, unless heat suppliers use renewable energy sources. Related to this is the question of availability of the renewable energy sources that could be used for this purpose.

From the perspective of the sensitivity of the analysis, shifts in crops seem to have a huge impact on energy consumption by greenhouse horticulture in Flanders. By increasing or decreasing the share of energy-intensive crops, energy consumption can increase or decrease considerably. It is expected that in future this sensitivity may be reduced as a result of the technological progress that can be expected as a consequence of the high energy prices. According to the experts, this can result in very important additional improvements in efficiency when it comes to the use of energy sources and the reduction of energy needs and energy losses.

Finally, an outline is provided for a transition towards a visionary goal: it concerns a series of views on what is required to evolve towards the visionary scenario. Attention is paid to the following aspects: a step-by-step approach to realise the ambitions, necessary instruments, financing, regulations and other factors.

Original version:



Bergen D., Vandervennet B. & Overloop S. (2010)
Wetenschappelijk rapport MIRA 2009 - Deelsector Glastuinbouw
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