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Founding the Dutch section EUROSOLAR.NL

Article by Frank Lenzmann, Carol Olson, published in SOLARZEITALTER 02/2019

EUROSOLAR is delighted to announce the foundation of a new section in the heart of the European Union: the Netherlands. Two of the founding members, Carol Olsen and Frank Lenzmann, give us an exclusive insight in how the idea of EUROSOLAR.NL developed and why it is so important to watch the market closely and promote renewable energies in the Netherlands

The initiation spark

The idea to start a Dutch section of EUROSOLAR was born from observations and discussions during the 30th anniversary event of EUROSOLAR in Bonn on August 25th 2018. The informative, short overview presentations about activities and goals given by several EUROSOLAR sections made it clear once again how useful and effective this sub-structuring of the EUROSOLAR organization by country really is. There is simply no “one size fits all” formula for pushing forward the energy transition in Europe in view of the overwhelming amount of country-specific differences. For example, the geographies of a mountainous country like Switzerland and an essentially flat country like the Netherlands have very little in common indeed. Furthermore, differences in terms of policy frameworks, economic structures, culture, etc., may all have pronounced implications on the best way forward to accelerate the transition to a 100% renewable energy system. The people who are locally connected and anchored are clearly in the best position to see, understand and deal with all these country specific characteristics. Accordingly, EUROSOLAR country sections have the potential to be very effective in communicating and acting for 100% renewable energy within the country itself.

Drivers

A significant, fundamental driver for our founding initiative was the work, writings, vision and personality of EUROSOLAR founder Dr. Hermann Scheer who has been an immensely powerful source of inspiration for people all over the world, including us. On top of that we all have our own individual drivers, such as love for nature or the feeling of responsibility for future generations etc., most of which undoubtedly overlap with those of other EUROSOLAR founders and members.

Background of founding members and positioning of the Dutch section

In the current start-up phase the team of founding members of the Dutch section is characterized by backgrounds in, mainly, science & technology, but also politics, journalism and entrepreneurship. So there is certain emphasis on science & technology. This is a deliberate choice aiming at the maximization of the added value our section can bring to the already existing field of players in the Dutch energy transition arena. Among those players are organizations like Urgenda or NVDE (Dutch Association for Renewable Energies) that are well grounded and established here in the Netherlands. Urgenda, for example, initiated the legal action against the Dutch government to take stronger measures against climate change by 2020 that has been lauded worldwide for creating a precedent in climate change law. Discussions with this existing field of actors shaped, step by step, the insight that the emphasis on independent science and technology was the most valuable positioning of the Dutch section forming an excellent basis for complementarity and mutual support.

Integration of EUROSOLAR.NL into Dutch energy transition landscape (in planning)

To emphasize our goal to cooperate and join forces with existing actors who are working accelerate the transition to 100% renewable energy and energy democracy through community owned decentralized renewable plants and a maximum degree of civil society participation, we are currently in discussions with the recently founded umbrella organization Energie Samen (Energy Together). This is an organization through which the majority of local Dutch energy cooperatives operate from one common platform and in conjunction with support organizations that provide knowledge about among other things legal frameworks, project development as well as information and communications technology. The intention is to position EUROSOLAR.NL as an additional and complementary force within the umbrella of Energie Samen from the above mentioned independent focus on science & technology.

Our goals in the near future

The first goal is to organize a good and visible opening event to which we are also cordially inviting EUROSOLAR president Prof. Peter Droege, who assured us his attendance (given a suitable timing, probably after the summer vacation). In the daily operations thereafter, one of our goals is to use our expertise for identifying risks of technological lock-in which are looming from many sides in the current debates about the right course of the energy transition in the Netherlands. To mention only one example, incumbent players of the Dutch fossil energy sector have enthusiastically manifested support for the possibities of hydrogen in the future energy system. While we don’t question the potential for fully renewable hydrogen in a 100% renewable energy supply, the arguments often stay foggy or indifferent about the sourcing of the hydrogen.

But the source makes all the difference: hydrogen produced from natural gas is not sustainable and does not further the transition to 100% renewable energy, whereas hydrogen produced from renewable electricity and water is and does. There are definitely attempts to green-wash fossil-based hydrogen and the risks of a corresponding fossil fuel lock-in appear quite real. So, in this as well as in similar debates, an important part of our ambition is to use our expertise to the benefit of some sort of a watch-dog function by detecting and publicizing these type of lock-in risks as well as – equally importantly – by promoting solutions that overcome lock-in. Furthermore we aim – in line with highly appreciated EUROSOLAR traditions - to establish a Dutch Solar Prize event as of 2020, and publish annual status and trend updates of the Dutch energy transition in the EUROSOLAR magazine Solarzeitalter.

Dutch circumstances in the energy transition

Regrettably, the Netherlands today is still a back-runner in the energy transition. Renewable energies account for only around 13% of the electricity consumption, and approximately 6% of the gross final energy consumption, i.e., substantially below the self-defined targets. At the same time, the fossil fuel sector in the Netherlands is traditionally very strong with the Dutch-British oil giant Shell in the head position, followed by national gas companies like Gasunie and Gasterra. It would be naïve to see no correlation between these two facts and our expectation is that the economic and political weight of these players will – for the time being – remain a powerful and serious factor to be reckoned with in the further course of the energy transition.

To end this article on a hopeful note, we wish to point out that there are several positive trends, such as a favorable net-metering scheme for small-scale PV installations which was just prolonged until 2023 and brought about an encouraging growth of PV installations in the past few years to a total capacity of more than 4 GWp by the end of 2018. Furthermore, the large number of grass-roots initiatives and the bundling of forces within Energie Samen starts to unfold positive new dynamics. Supporting and furthering these trends and fending off back-lashes wherever we see them, is what we see as our mission as EUROSOLAR.NL.

 

Dr. Carol Olson has worked in renewable energy research for the past 15 years and is founding member of the Dutch section EUROSOLAR.NL. Contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Dr. Frank Lenzmann carries out renewable energy research in the Netherlands and is a founding member of the Dutch section EUROSOLAR.NL. Contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.