One of the features of the Buildings Decree 2012 (Bouwbesluit 2012), which entered into effect on 1 April 2012, is that it lays down a requirement for certain categories of buildings to be connected to a heating network. Previously, this requirement was laid down in the municipal building regulations of various municipalities. With the decree's entry into effect, the relevant provisions in municipal building regulations have lapsed.
A new development in this regard is that, under the Buildings Decree 2012, the "equivalence principle" is applicable to the abovementioned connection requirement. What this means is that the requirement does not apply if heating can be supplied using another method, provided that this method is equivalent to connection to a heating network. The municipal building regulations did not provide for such an option.
Initially, several municipalities and heating companies expressed concerns about the application of the equivalence principle, stating that this would create uncertainty regarding the cost-effectiveness of investing in a heating network, as it would no longer be clear beforehand whether the minimum number of connections required to operate that network could be achieved. These municipalities and heating companies therefore requested the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations to elaborate on the connection requirement in such a way as to render the equivalence principle inapplicable, or to at least restrict its applicability. By contrast, project developers, housing companies and consumer organisations (the Woonbond and the Vereniging Eigen Huis) argued in favour of retaining the equivalence principle unchanged.
To satisfy the interests of both sides, the Minister envisions a further substantiation that is intended to minimise the investment uncertainties as much as possible while retaining the advantages of applying the equivalence principle. The solution is as follows: the relevant municipality draws up a "heating plan" (with a maximum lifetime of 10 years), setting out the area to which the plan is applicable, the maximum number of connections required for a cost-effective utilization of the heating network and the extent to which the heating network is energy-efficient and environmentally protective. In order to be deemed equivalent to connection to a heating network – and therefore qualify for an exception under the Buildings Decree 2012 – an alternative method of supplying heat must, at a minimum, be as energy-efficient and environmentally protective as connection to a heating network.