Geothermal energy can have a key role in making Dutch protected horticulture both sustainable and profitable, according to a new report by market analysts at Rabobank.
It claims that geothermal could replace 2 percent of the Netherlands' total natural gas consumption, given investment of €1.6bn.
Rabobank analyst Clara Van Der Elst said: "The Dutch greenhouse industry is currently facing declining profit margins, two of the main reasons being its high energy demand and rising natural gas prices.
"Geothermal energy provides an opportunity to combat rising costs and can lower energy costs by up to 50 per cent."
The report suggests that for heat-intensive crops such as tomatoes and cucumbers, geothermal systems could be viable on individual sites of 6 hectares and above, but for smaller sites and less heat-intensive crops, such systems could be pooled between neighbouring growers.
The glasshouse sector currently accounts for 10 per cent of the Netherlands' entire natural gas consumption, and benefits from energy tax breaks. But geothoermal would become more attractive if these were to be reduced, the report said.
Currently three to five geothermal projects per year are given the go-ahead, Van Der Elst said, but added: "To realise the full potential by 2020, we estimate that the project development rate would have to grow to ten projects annually."