In 2050, there will no longer be an ‘Energy Industry’
Of all the major energy companies, Eneco has ‘the greenest investment policy’, says Ron Wit, Director of Public Affairs. During the Green Top Train tour, the company hosted the ‘Energy Carriage’. ‘For us, the energy transition cannot go fast enough.’
Why did Eneco board the Green Top Train?
‘First of all, we have signed a long-term contract with NS (Dutch Railways). Half of the NS trains now run on green energy and by 2018, this will be one hundred percent. This electricity is generated in new wind farms which we will gradually put into service in the Netherlands (including the North Sea and the Noordoostpolder), Belgium, Germany and the UK. This contract is for an annual consumption of 1.2 TWh, which is more than 1% of the total Dutch energy demand. The Green Train, a symbol of our partnership, is much more than a contract between supplier and buyer. We also look for ways to make energy more sustainable at stations, for example. Our mission is to provide everyone with 100% sustainable energy from renewable sources. Of all the energy companies in the Netherlands, Eneco currently has the largest generating capacity for green energy, such as wind farms, solar panels, and bio-energy plants. We are on the Green Train because we want to encourage people to get on board with us – figuratively – and help step up our efforts to prevent global warming.’
Is the energy transition not happening fast enough?
‘So far, climate negotiations have mainly been a diplomatic exercise. What's more, climate change is a fairly abstract concept. What I like about the Green Top Train is that everyone can get on board. The train travels across the country to visit people and get them on board. For example, on each leg of the journey we invite a new school class in a school competition, the Climate Hero Contest, on board for a WindLab workshop. The more people, local authorities and businesses we can get involved in the climate problem and its solutions, the easier it will be for the government to deploy an ambitious climate policy.’
What role do you see for energy companies now that more and more individuals and cooperatives are generating their own energy?
‘Our role as a producer and supplier of energy will gradually change. We are currently in a transition phase characterised by growth of the sustainable energy share. An increasing share of energy production will be generated by citizens and businesses in other sectors. According to the Energy Agreement, 30-40% of our electricity will be generated from renewable sources by 2023. This means our energy system must become much more flexible in order to provide an answer to the increasing share of energy supply from intermittent sources like sun and wind. Flexibility services can ensure that this varying supply can be integrated at low cost, for example by charging batteries and home appliances when there is a surplus of solar or wind power and the energy price is low. At present, energy companies have the edge when it comes to developing flex services because they have the required knowledge of the energy system. If they wait too long, however, other parties will catch up with them.’
What will our energy system look in 2050?
‘I am confident that the sun will be our main source of energy by 2050. By that time solar cells will be integrated into various materials and be part and parcel of our outdoor space. The energy industry as we know it will cease to exist. Energy will be an integral part of other economic sectors and will continuously be exchanged. Consider for example heating/cooling systems in buildings, or charging electric car batteries, as ways of balancing the local supply and demand of electricity.’
Where will the energy companies be in 2050?
‘Innovation & Ventures, a new division of Eneco Group, is investing €100 million in the development and scale-up of dozens of innovative energy projects and startups. We are investing in TOON (our smart thermostat), Sustainer Homes (self-sustaining container homes), Nerdalize (server heating), and Peeeks, an intelligent system for optimising the generation and consumption of green electricity. Our role will shift from a seller of gas and electricity to a technology company providing services in the decentralised supply of energy. We are already doing much more for and with our customers than the standard supply contract. Our wind farm Delftzijl Noord has been purpose-built to supply green power to the new Google data centre. This aligns perfectly with our strategy to develop new, sustainable energy sources as much as possible in collaboration with our customers. Another good example is our partnership with NS. When citizens have the opportunity to participate in wind turbines, it provides them with a better distribution of benefits and burdens. This is important for the level of support for wind energy.’
We have heard a lot lately about the Unbundling Act, which would force you to unbundle production and grid management.
‘If this unbundling is pursued it would be incomprehensible not only for our company but also in terms of employment opportunities and control over our energy supply. The Netherlands is the only country in Europe that requires its energy companies to unbundle. This puts Dutch companies at a competitive disadvantage relative to foreign energy companies. Moreover, unbundling is unnecessary because the electricity and gas networks are already protected against the commercial risks of energy companies and foreign takeovers through existing legislation. Other European countries have opted for different solutions to protect their networks and thus prevent the sale of their energy companies to foreign acquirers. If we are required to unbundle, we will continue to deploy our sustainability policy at full speed, albeit with significantly less financial clout. In effect, unbundling means breaking down the balance sheet, which would for instance require us to reduce our investment in the regional economy by € 400 million.’
This text originally appeared on Tumblr.
Text: Wilke Wittebrood