In the mid-1990’s I became fascinated by the enormous challenge we all face: how can the 9 to 10 billion people who will live on our planet in 2050 live comfortably as well as sustainably?
Within Shell I felt I was able to contribute towards a more sustainable world / energy system. In my own time I wrote an article titled “Shell – Energy or Fossil Fuel Supplier?”, which argued the case for Shell migrating it’s core business towards renewable sources of energy. I distributed the 22-page article to over 100 colleagues via the Planner’s Newsletter in June 1996. In 1997-1998 I lead a team of around 50 colleagues who developed the “Expro Business Plan for Sustainable Development”. In 1999 and 2000 I represented Shell in the climate change debate, where we argued for carbon pricing and prepared the Shell Group for a carbon-constrained world. Between 2001 en 2005 I was responsible for strategy and planning for Shell Renewables & Hydrogen, a period in which Shell invested over a bilion US$ in wind energy, solar photovoltaics, biofuels, geothermal Hot Fractured Rock and hydrogen.
I joined ECN, the Energy research Center of the Netherlands in 2011. It has been a privilege to lead a team of around 450 people working day-in-day-out on the transition to a more sustainable energy system. Nowhere in The Netherlands is there such rich and deep knowledge on wind, solar, biomass, energy efficiency, policy studies and circularity / sustainability. In September 2016 we made the decision to separate the renewable energy activities of ECN from the nuclear activities of NRG, and to combine the strengths of ECN and TNO’s energy-related R&D activities.
For me this was the right time to leave ECN and focus my activities on what I see as the next challenge in the energy transition: how to establish a reliable energy system that includes a large share of variable renewable energy sources which are dependent on weather patterns. Even with today’s relatively small share of renewable energy in the energy system we already see moments where there is a surplus of energy. At other times there will be shortages, which at present can still be accomodated by using fossil fuels. However, as we aim for a carbon neutral society, this will no longer be possible. New solutions are needed including energy storage technologies. Consumers will also have to become more responsive to be able to accommodate variable renewable energy sources. The integration of renewable energy is an enormous challenge we together face, and one for which I am convinced we will find solutions!