EnergyDays is organized every quarter of the year and is open for anyone interested in the latest developments in societal energy issues. EnergyDays focusses on a specific aspect of the present energy and climate discussion. Different keynote speakers from academia and industry will present their views, solutions and outlooks on the topic. The motto of EnergyDays is to stimulate the audience to broaden their vision on energy and climate.
Next session: 4 November 2021
Previous session: 11 March 2021
The energy transition in a national context: the need to change direction
Optimistic and fair scenarios for the future
The energy transition is not merely a technical, but perhaps even more a cultural and social challenge. That was the main takeaway of the March 2021 edition of the EnergyDays. In two presentations, by Floris Alkemade and Geert Verbong, the challenges of the energy transition in a national context were discussed.
After a short introduction by host Barry Fitzgerald, Chief Government Architect Floris Alkemade took the virtual stage to share his views on the future of The Netherlands, which he recently voiced in an essay under the same title. The central question in Alkemade’s exploration of possible future scenarios is how we can we arrange our lives without leaving a trace of destruction behind. With a striking map depicting ‘the nation formerly known as The Netherlands,’ he emphasized the need to act now. ‘It is known that 1,5 degrees of global warming would already lead to irreversible devastating effects. The majority of the population growth is concentrated in coastal areas. This is not a good combination with regard to the potential see level rising we are facing.’
Imagine the future
Even though we are a small country, The Netherlands is well positioned to take responsibility in leading the change, he argued. ‘We are extremely wealthy, well-organized, well-educated, and we have ample experience with water related challenges. It is up to science to create a collective longing for change by showing optimistic future perspectives.’ Alkemade himself cooperated on a study to explore what The Netherlands would look like if we would have 100% sustainable energy. ‘What people tend to forget is that the energy transition is not an isolated challenge. Sustainable energy supply touches all other policy agendas, ranging from agriculture to spatial planning. We need a coherent plan to go forward. And that plan should be born out of imagination of what is possible, not out of fear of what might happen if we do not act now. Sometimes the real revolution is not a tech revolution, but a cultural revolution. Take the way COVID made us look differently at transportation. Instead of developing self-driving vehicles, aiming for less transportation all together has suddenly become a viable alternative.’
Smart grid management
The second speaker was Geert Verbong, emeritus professor in transition studies at the School of Innovation Studies of Eindhoven University of Technology. In his presentation, he emphasized the importance of empowering users in the implementation of sustainable energy solutions. He started by presenting the results of a study performed by former MSc and now PhD student Naud Loomans about possible renewable energy scenarios the Province of Noord-Brabant could explore to meet the climate goals they have set for themselves. ‘He concluded that a balanced mix of solar panels and offshore wind parks would provide the optimal solution in terms of costs and benefits. At the same time, network operator Enexis stated that for the coming 5 to 7 years, there will be no extra capacity available to connect additional solar and wind parks. The solution is therefore to develop smart grids, to solve network problems locally and prevent large scale congestions. New organizational models are needed to implement that idea.’
Empowerment of users
As far as Verbong is concerned, acceptance and participation are key in achieving the energy transition. ‘Take the example of the recently opened Wieringermeer wind park. The people living in the vicinity were disappointed, because most of the electricity generated by the windmills is meant for the Microsoft data center nearby, and not for powering their houses. Empowerment of users should be a key element of smart grid policy. The opposition against wind parks is legitimate. We need a fair transition, with a fair and inclusive allocation of costs and benefits. The profits made should contribute to improving sustainability and livability for the local community.’ Currently, researchers are developing new governance and participation models with a central role for provincial and local authorities and 25% ownership for local communities. ‘These are examples of how we can do things differently and work toward a fair energy transition.’