Keep the momentum going!

by: Hans van Cleef

Hydrogen, geothermal and battery storage capacity in electric cars are some of the solutions often mentioned to accelerate the energy transition. There is a small problem, though: many of these technologies do exist, but only on a small scale or they are still too expensive. More innovation and technological development is desperately needed. Fortunately, the Dutch government provides subsidies to continue to develop these technologies. But time is our biggest enemy. After all, the call for an acceleration of the energy transition and a more ambitious climate policy is getting louder and louder.

However, it might be a good thing that progress is not being made more quickly. There are signs that the electricity grid is reaching the limits of its capacity. The so-called congestion of the grid – which could potentially lead to power outages – threatens to delay the further scaling up of sustainable energy, such as solar and wind farms. On the consumer side, too, large companies and data centres consume substantial amounts of energy. Therefore, there is a risk of congestion on the network.

Meanwhile, the consequences of climate change and climate policy gets full attention in the Netherlands. But this call for acceleration and “more ambitious” policy is starting to run into the limits of what is technically feasible. Our government should pursue “more ambitious climate policies”, but the climate agreement presented this summer is well ahead of the targets set in Europe. So an even more ambitious policy would not help much, as we will likely already struggle to implement the current policy. Even more ambitious objectives would create expectations that we may not be able to live up to. This would lead to frustration and disappointment.

This week the annual Energy Trade Fair is taking place in Den Bosch. This exhibition is aimed at making electricity and heat more sustainable and improving energy efficiency. It is very inspiring to see how these companies are every day busy improving insulation materials and increasing the efficiency of solar panels, solar collectors and heat pumps. This is where the energy transition actually takes place. No grumbling about ambitions that need to be set higher, no extensive studies that seem to support the client’s opinions, but just action! However, the lack of skilled employees can become a problem. The energy transition seems to have only just begun and there are already significant shortages of well-trained technical personnel.

The enthusiasm for innovating and implementing carbon neutral solutions, reducing our consumption and building new revenue models certainly helps. Our governments must make it possible to amend legislation to remove obstacles to the energy transition and, if necessary, provide subsidies to facilitate both the thinkers and the doers. Supporting technological development, allowing technology to become economically mature and, finally, giving time to its integration may be the biggest challenges for the coming years. Managing expectations regarding solutions such as hydrogen, geothermal energy and battery storage capacity in electric cars is also crucial. After all, we need to maintain the momentum to accelerate the energy transition. But if it accelerate too fast, then you face the risk of overheating…


This column has been published earlier in Dutch on